BALTIMORE, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, who spent four decades in American football, died Thursday of natural causes, his family said. He was 87.
Modell died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
"Sadly, I can confirm that my father died peacefully of natural causes at 4 a.m. this morning," former Ravens President Dave Modell said in a statement posted on the team's Web site. "My brother John Modell and I were with him when he finally rejoined the absolute love of his life, my mother Pat Modell, who passed away last October."
As owner of the Cleveland Browns from 1961 to 1995, and the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 to 2003, Modell oversaw teams that produced 28 winning seasons, 28 playoff games and two NFL championships. Modell moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996.
Modell was instrumental in launching "Monday Night Football" and led the NFL's Television Committee for 31 years, helping to establish the standard for rights' fees for professional sports and TV networks, the Web site said.
He was the only elected NFL president in league history, serving from 1967 to 1969.
Modell, who grew up in New York, dropped out of high school to when he was 15 to help his family after his father died.
After serving in the Air Force, he enrolled in a New York City television school following World War II and later produced "Market Melodies," one of the first regular daytime television shows in the nation.
He purchased the Browns franchise on March 21, 1961.
Former Browns tight end Ozzie Newsome, whom Modell named as the first minority general manager in the NFL, recalled that Modell expected the highest effort from his players, but also used humor in tense situations.
"Art wanted to know everything we were doing, and he directed us every day. He was demanding, but he made me laugh and smile at the same time," Newsome said. "The tougher the situation, the better his humor."
Modell was known for his philanthropy, serving on many civic, educational and charitable boards. He served on the board of the Cleveland Clinic for 20 years, seven as president. The Ravens said Modell recently led a $100 million Heart Institute Fund for Johns Hopkins.
He is survived by his sons John and David, and six grandchildren.
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