Eddie DeBartolo and his wife Candy were in their room at the Stanford Park Hotel in San Francisco waiting anxiously for news about one of pro football’s biggest events of the year – the inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
“It felt like we were on a TV show,” recalls DeBartolo. “We heard a knock on the door. I knew that if it wasn’t David Baker, president of the Hall of Fame, that meant I didn’t make it.
“I looked through the peephole and it was Baker. I opened the door and he grabbed me and hugged me. I broke down and Candy broke down. I was honored and humbled beyond words. But, I also felt terrible for all of the ﬁnalists who didn’t make it.”
It’s that streak of humility and compassion mixed with unerring business acumen that has made DeBartolo the man he is today. Former NFL running back and Hall of Fame recipient Eric Dickerson sums it up best: “Eddie D was one of the best owners that I wish I would have had the opportunity to play for.”
In the spring, the DeBartolo’s talked to the REGISTRY™ Luxury Living In Tampa Bay from their home in Avila that they share with Eddie’s beloved dogs a greyhound, an enormous Great Dane-Saint Bernard mix and a schnoodle, a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle. When he’s not immersed in business, Eddie escapes with the dogs to Montana where he has a second home.
Eddie and Candy met in high school and have been married for 47 years. They moved to Tampa in 2000, after Eddie retired as the legendary owner of the San Francisco 49ers – the ﬁrst franchise to win ﬁve Super Bowl Championships. In August, he’ll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
What was the secret to his team’s success? “Back then it was totally about relationships. We were close to all of the players, more like friends than owners. It was always a mutual admiration society,” says DeBartolo. “I’ve stayed in touch over the years and recently met up with eight of my former players in Las Vegas. We had a great time.”
Today, DeBartolo is focused on philanthropy. He credits his daughters, Lisa, Tiffanie and Nikki, for the remarkable job they do running the DeBartolo Family Foundation, which over the years has donated $13 million dollars to worthwhile causes. “It comes from the heart. We don’t do this for the publicity,” says DeBartolo. “We can’t help cure all of the world’s ills, but it’s our belief that we have to help people in any way we can.”
What’s next on his agenda? “After all those years of travel with football, it’s nice to just enjoy myself and spend more time with my family, especially my three grandsons, ages 5, 7 and 12,” says DeBartolo.
He’s also continuing the real estate legacy established by his father, Edward DeBartolo, Sr., who built the ﬁrst enclosed shopping mall in the country back in the 1940s. Recent projects undertaken by DeBartolo Development include Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa and a new shopping mall on Oahu in Hawaii – the ﬁrst new project of its kind on the island in 40 years.