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David Abraham "Sonny" Werblin (March 17, 1907 - November 21, 1991) was a prominent entertainment industry executive and sports impresario who was an owner of the New York Jets, Chairman of Madison Square Gardens, and who built and managed the Meadowlands Sports Complexmarker.

A graduate of Rutgers Universitymarker, Werblin went to work for Music Corporation of America (MCA) in 1932 and was so successul that in 1951 he was made president of M.C.A.'s television division.

In 1938, he married Leah Ray Hubbard (1915-1999) of Norfolk, Virginiamarker. Performing as Leah Ray, she was a well known vocalist in the Big Band era. Ms. Ray sang with major orchestras such as those of Tommy Dorsey and Phil Harris, and acted in more than a dozen films. Among her film appearances, in 1936 she co-starred with Phil Harris in the Academy Award nominated short film titled, Double or Nothing. While performing with the Phil Harris orchestra she met Sonny Werbin. They married in 1938 and remained together for more than fifty years until his death in 1991. [41559]

Sports business

In 1963, Sonny Werblin and his partners purchased the American Football League (AFL) Titans of New York from original owner Harry Wismer. Werblin changed the team's name to the Jets, and drafted Matt Snell in the first round, signing him away from the crosstown NFL Giants. His biggest coup came in 1965, when for $400,000 he signed University of Alabamamarker quarterback Joe Namath, who had been drafted by the NFL St. Louis Cardinals. Werblin and the Oakland Raiders' Al Davis resisted the indemnity the NFL demanded, which was $100,000 per year for twenty years. Other AFL owners agreed to the terms, along with stripping the name and logo from the AFL.

Werblin was bought out by Jets management prior to the 1968 season, which concluded with the team winning Super Bowl III over the Baltimore Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Newarkmarker Star-Ledger sports columnist Jerry Izenberg would later speculate that, because the Jets fired Werblin, there was a "Curse of Sonny Werblin" on the team. By an unusual coincidence, Werblin and Izenberg were elected to the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey in the same year, 1997.

Sonny Werblin built the Meadowlands Sports Complexmarker in East Rutherford, New Jerseymarker which he ran from 1971 to 1977. [41560] [41561]

When it was announced that the New York Giants would begin playing at the new Giants Stadiummarker in 1976, a reporter ask Werblin about the New York Giants playing in New Jersey, he explained the geography in the New York City Metro area by saying "If You pave the Hudson River it becomes 13th Avenue." In 1978 Werblin took over as head of Madison Square Gardenmarker and its properties, including the New York Rangers and New York Knicks. In 1984 he gave up day-to-day control of Madison Square Garden but remained Chairman of its Board of Directors.

Thoroughbred racing

Sonny and Leah Werblin raced Thoroughbred horses under the nom de course, Elberon Farm. Among their racing successes, their colt, Silent Screen, earned 1969 American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt honors. In addition, Sonny Werblin was a major shareholder and member of the Board of Directors of Monmouth Park Racetrackmarker in Oceanport, New Jerseymarker.

Philanthropy

Sonny Werblin and his wife established the David and Leah Ray Werblin Foundation which provides financial support for Rutgers University, charitable causes, and cultural activities. [41562] Rutgers University built the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center on its Busch Campusmarker, near Rutgers Stadiummarker in Piscatawaymarker, New Jerseymarker, across the Raritan River from its main campus in New Brunswickmarker. The Center is home to weight-training facilities and the University's main venues for water-sports competition.

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