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NFL search narrows

5 commissioner semifinalists left

The search for the next commissioner of the National Football League is down to five candidates.

Yesterday afternoon the league search committee pared the list of 11 semifinalists to five finalists, who will be interviewed Aug. 7-9 by all 32 owners at a league meeting in Chicago. Only one, NFL chief operating officer Roger Goodell, has direct ties to the league, although many have connections to pro football.

Goodell, 47, long has been the top assistant to present commissioner Paul Tagliabue; his official title is executive vice president and chief operating officer. He is the son of Charles Goodell, a former United States senator from New York.

Also a finalist is Robert Reynolds, 54, from Concord, vice chairman and COO of Boston-based Fidelity Investments.

The other finalists are: Gregg Levy, 53, a partner at the law firm of Covington and Burling in Washington, D.C.; Mayo Shattuck 3d, 51, the president and CEO of Constellation Energy Group in Baltimore; and Frederick Nance, 52, a managing partner in the law firm Squire Sanders & Dempsey in Cleveland.

Reynolds was born in West Virginia but has worked in various jobs at Fidelity for the last 20 years before becoming Neal Johnson's second in command and responsible for the daily operation of the financial firm. Reynolds was a college football referee for 15 years. Collecting autographed baseballs is among his hobbies.

For more than a decade, Levy has served as the chief outside legal counsel to the NFL (the same job Tagliabue held when he was elected commissioner in 1989). He was lead counsel in the league's victory over Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett in 2004, when Clarett tried to challenge the legality of the NFL draft and enter the league before he was eligible under its rules.

Levy also was the lead counsel in the NFL's victory over former Patriots owner Victor Kiam, who in 2001 lost an appeal of a jury verdict that the NFL had not violated antitrust law when Kiam was forced to sell the team. Levy is a graduate of Harvard, class of 1974, and Harvard Law School.

Shattuck has been president and CEO of Constellation Energy since 2001. He is a graduate of Williams College and Stanford Business School. His wife, Molly, is a 39-year-old cheerleader with the Baltimore Ravens. Shattuck helped broker the sale of the Ravens to their present owners from Art Modell while serving as president of the investment bank Alex.Brown.

Nance, the only African-American among the finalists, heads Squire Sanders & Dempsey's Cleveland office. He serves as legal counsel to Cavaliers superstar LeBron James and was involved in the return of the Cleveland Browns' name to the franchise when the city received an expansion team several years after the Ravens left for Baltimore. He also has done legal work involving stadium subleases and concessions for the Browns' new stadium. Nance is a graduate of Harvard, class of 1975, and the University of Michigan Law School.

The finalists came from an original list of 185 names that included such diverse people as Jeff Pash, long the NFL's in-house counsel, and Reggie Williams, a former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker and Dartmouth College graduate.

During the league meeting, after the interviews are completed, a vote will be taken, and the successor to Tagliabue will need 22 of the 32 owners to cast their ballots for him. That's one reason three days have been set aside to finish the process.

When Tagliabue last spring announced his plans to retire, he made clear he wanted to be off the job before the new season was set to begin, although he told the owners he would serve as long as necessary.

Although it took four months for Tagliabue to be named commissioner in '89, replacing Pete Rozelle, it is expected the process will work more smoothly this time.

That is, in part, because Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who served on the search committee, has worked diligently with the other members of the committee to create a sense of inclusion for all 32 owners.

That feeling did not exist in 1989 and led to a palace revolt when a small group of longtime owners tried to ramrod through the appointment of then New Orleans Saints general manager Jim Finks. That effort ultimately failed and it led to four months of near chaos around the league office, and to hard feelings among the owners.

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, Fidelity Investments CEO Edward C. Johnson III was incorrectly called Neal Johnson in a story in yesterday's Sports section about the finalists for the NFL commissioner's job.)

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