Les Bowen: Don't be surprised when more Eagles moves happen after Luries' divorce

In October 2010, Christina Lurie discussed "Inside Job," a movie that she and husband Jeffrey co-produced. It went on to win an Oscar for best documentary feature. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
In October 2010, Christina Lurie discussed "Inside Job," a movie that she and husband Jeffrey co-produced. It went on to win an Oscar for best documentary feature. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
Posted: July 06, 2012

I'M VERY surprised that Jeffrey and Christina Lurie are divorcing, but that's how it nearly always is, really: Other than Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, when was the last time you heard of a couple splitting up and thought, "Hey, I figured that was coming"?

Marriages don't usually play out in public. Most couples are good at seeming happy to strangers, acquaintances, even close friends. I have no idea what happened with the Luries, and I figure that's their business. I won't be delving into it.

I will be delving into what this means for the Eagles, which is everybody's business. In the statements released Wednesday evening — letting everyone know late on a national holiday absolutely was an attempt to control fallout, of course — the couple kept stressing that the operation of the franchise would be unaffected. That's at odds, frankly, with the organization's longstanding stance about how integral Christina Lurie has been to the nonfootball aspects of the team. A 2010 Inquirer profile detailed how Christina spurned a "wives' afternoon" at the NFL owners' meetings to sit in on the business session, and quoted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on her prominence in such ventures as the "Go Green" environmental initiative.

But, of course, according to those statements, the Luries will remain partners in the running of the Eagles, just not in marriage. Maybe so. Sounds kinda tricky to me. This is something reporters will watch closely. Funny how this intensely private couple, who would never even talk about their home or their kids to reporters, or divulge the children's names, have done the one thing that will now turn a bright spotlight on their relationship.

Those fervent "everything is fine here" statements notwithstanding, we can't possibly know what this means to the Eagles yet. The Eagles are not a publicly held entity. We don't know what sort of pre- or postnuptial agreement the Luries might have. We don't know how the ownership breaks down. We know there are at least a few minority owners, who are said to own very small pieces of the pie.

Some fans think of owners divorcing and go right to what happened with Frank and Jamie McCourt in Los Angeles, an ugly parting that ended with Frank McCourt selling the Dodgers, after Major League Baseball took over franchise operations last year. It does seem relevant that the McCourts had driven the Dodgers deep into debt before their marriage broke up — a situation very different from the Eagles under the Luries. But generally in divorce proceedings, the wife gets a financial settlement, and it's far from clear whether Jeffrey Lurie has a huge chunk of money independent of his ownership of the Eagles. He certainly didn't have that when he bought the team in 1994.

On Thursday, in response to a question from the Daily News, a team spokesman said in an email: "The team's ownership structure will not change as a result of the Luries' situation. Both Jeffrey and Christina have used two phrases to describe the impact of their decision on the team's ownership: ‘zero percent change,' and ‘this is the opposite of the McCourts.'?"

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and his wife, Stephanie, split last year. That parting seems to have had no impact on Blank's ownership or management of the team. But Stephanie Blank had no real role in the running of the Falcons, reports indicate.

The Naked Philadelphian blog, which moves in different circles from most sports writers, asserted Thursday that the Lurie announcement was not a surprise, and listed two charity events at which Christina Lurie appeared without her husband, including the opening gala for the Barnes Foundation on the Parkway this spring.

"[Christina] Lurie wants to be intimately involved in filming, but that was very hard to do from Philadelphia. Her work with the Eagles did not keep her occupied," blogger Laura Goldman wrote. "Her friends tell me she will be spending more time in Los Angeles to concentrate on her film career. NBC recently bought a television series from Twitter celebrity Kelly Oxford that she championed."

I'm struck by the coincidence of a second huge, behind-the-scenes Eagles change, less than a month after the announced departure of team president Joe Banner. Of course, whatever happened between the Luries has nothing to do with what happened with Banner, or with Jeffrey Lurie's growing discomfort over how the Eagles organization is perceived by fans.

The main question I got on Twitter on Wednesday night was whether the Eagles now would go back to their traditional kelly green, the color Christina famously disliked. She always portrayed it as both of them disliking it and preferring the midnight green she chose. Maybe now we'll know.

But Eagles fans will be lucky if something like uniform color turns out to be the biggest change resulting from this divorce. The kind of setup the Luries detailed in their message to team employees Wednesday night seems difficult to maintain, even with the best of intentions. I can't think, offhand, of anything similar — a team in which both spouses played a large role in the running of the franchise that continued in that vein after they divorced.

Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read his blog at www.eagletarian.com.

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