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As Gov. William Weld (R) expressed confidence that the state legislature would approve a new football stadium, a syndicate that wants to move the New England Patriots to St. Louis made an offer for the team, according to Saturday's Providence Journal-Bulletin.

The NFL Gateway Group submitted a substantial bid for the team to the Goldman Sachs investment firm, the paper reported.

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Last week, Mr. Weld warned that the team could be sold to a buyer who would move it to St. Louis, despite statements from Patriots owner James Orthwein that he would look for a local buyer. But Weld was more optimistic Friday, saying a $700 million ``megaplex'' proposal would be passed before the legislative session ends Tuesday.

Mr. Orthwein and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue have said a new stadium is necessary to keep the team in New England.

Three other possible buyers who want to keep the team in the Boston area have also spoken to Goldman Sachs.

Robert Kraft, owner of Foxboro Stadium, is one. He would keep the team at the stadium. He would spend $70 million of his own money to upgrade the stadium, he said.

Jeremy Jacobs, chief executive of the Boston Garden and Boston Bruins, and a group of friends of Patriots coach Bill Parcells are possible buyers. They want to move the team to the megaplex, planned for downtown Boston.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Charles Flaherty said Friday he has dropped a provision for new taxes from a ``megaplex'' bill he is drafting. This avoids a showdown with the governor, who is opposed to tying new taxes to the megaplex.

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