I Get a Kill: Former Seahawks Owner Ken Behring Dead @ 91
By Richard Goldstein
June 30, 2019
Ken Behring, the California-based real estate developer and philanthropist who owned the N.F.L.’s Seattle Seahawks in the late 1980s and 1990s, a turbulent time for the franchise marked by largely mediocre seasons and Mr. Behring’s unsuccessful quest to move the team to Southern California, died on Tuesday in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was 91.
His death, at his home in Blackhawk, a large planned development he built in Contra Costa County, was announced by the Seahawks.
While in his 20s, Mr. Behring owned a highly successful auto dealership in Wisconsin and then embarked on lucrative residential real estate ventures.
He joined with a partner in purchasing the Seahawks in 1988 for a reported $80 million from an ownership group controlled by the Nordstrom department-store family.
The Seahawks hit bottom in 1992 when they finished with a 2-14 record. When they played in their first Super Bowl, in February 2006, Mr. Behring’s son David, the Seahawks’ president from 1993 to 1997, told The New York Times that he felt his father had soured on owning the franchise after that dismal 1992 season.
David Behring said he became the team’s public face to ward off enmity directed at his father.
“I had tremendous passion for the game,” he said. “I felt that I was getting along with many of the people and I was trying to push my father into the background so as not to be a target.”
In February 1995, Ken Behring had raised the prospect of moving the Seahawks, either to another stadium in Seattle or to another city, saying that the roof of their home stadium, the Kingdome, was not strong enough to withstand a strong earthquake.
The previous July, four of its 26-pound concrete tiles had come crashing down a few hours before a scheduled Mariners baseball game. That resulted in millions of dollars in roof repairs into November that sent the Mariners on the road until a strike in mid-August ended the baseball season. The Seahawks were forced to play their first three 1994 regular-season games at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium in Seattle.
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Seattle Seahawks fans at a rally in 1996 to oppose plans to move the team to Southern California. The team stayed put under a new owner.
ImageSeattle Seahawks fans at a rally in 1996 to oppose plans to move the team to Southern California. The team stayed put under a new owner.
Seattle Seahawks fans at a rally in 1996 to oppose plans to move the team to Southern California. The team stayed put under a new owner.CreditRobert Sorbo/Associated Press
Mr. Behring maintained that hundreds of millions of dollars in additional repairs were needed and that the Seattle area’s King County was obligated to undertake the work under the terms of the team’s lease, extending to 2005.
In February 1996, with negotiations at an impasse, Mr. Behring said he intended to move the team to Southern California, and had its workout equipment shipped to Anaheim, the Rams’ home before they left for St. Louis in 1995.
The N.F.L. opposed a move by the Seahawks, and the team stayed put. But Mr. Behring sold the team in 1997 for $194 million to Paul Allen, a Seattle native and co-founder of Microsoft. The Kingdome was demolished in 2000; the Seahawks went back to Husky Stadium, then moved in 2002 into the newly built open-air ballpark now known as CenturyLink Field, built on the Kingdome site and financed largely by taxpayer money.
Mr. Behring turned to charitable endeavors after leaving pro football.
He donated tens of millions of dollars to the Smithsonian Institution, and in 2000 he created the nonprofit Wheelchair Foundation, which has provided more than one million wheelchairs to people in need throughout the world. He established programs to provide clean water in rural areas around the globe and to perform cataract surgeries in Asia and Mexico.
Kenneth Eugene Behring was born into a farm family on June 13, 1928, in Freeport, Ill. The family moved to Monroe, Wis., when he was a boy. He hoped to play football at the University of Wisconsin, but an injury ended his athletic career and he left school after one semester.
In the mid-1950s, he moved to Florida, and a few years later he developed the bedroom community that he expanded into a series of planned developments, the current city of Tamarac.
Mr. Behring moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1972 and built upscale developments.
In addition to his son David, he is survived by his wife, Pat; his sons Tom, Jeff and Scott; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
When Mr. Behring’s purchase of the Seahawks was announced, he was asked whether, in light of his business interests and home in Southern California, he might look to move the team before its Kingdome lease expired.
“Absolutely not,” United Press International quoted him as saying. “This is the best football town in the whole country.”