SBD/Issue 82/Franchises

Seligs Announce Plans To Sell Brewers, Retain Allen & Co.

Selig Hopeful That Conflict
Of Interest Talks Will Die

The Brewers late Friday afternoon announced that they have retained Allen & Co. to facilitate the sale of the team. In Milwaukee, Don Walker cited sources that placed the value of the franchise at $180-200M, including nearly $110M of debt. The Brewers, with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig owning a share of the team since '70, have the "longest tenured ownership" in MLB. Brewers Chair Wendy Selig-Prieb "went to great lengths to reassure the community that professional baseball was secure in Milwaukee." Selig-Prieb: "I believe that the legacy of the ownership group will in fact be its commitment to securing this franchise to our community." Brewers BOD member Michael Grebe said that until the team is sold, Selig-Prieb will remain chair, and "the management team in place would run the team" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/17). BOD member John Canning said that the decision to sell the team is "not related to the recent problems" surrounding the cuts to the team's payroll and the departure of team President Ulice Payne in November. Canning: "If anything, the recent situation delayed this a little bit" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/17). Canning said that with the team for sale, a search for Payne's replacement has been put "totally on hold" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/17). Selig, on selling the team: "I wanted to do this for a long time but the whole group had to come to this decision. ... It's just time" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/18).

PERCEPTION OF CONFLICT: In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt wrote Selig was "unable to avoid conflict of interest accusations" since becoming acting commissioner in '92. Selig-Prieb: "He has been fastidious in separating himself from the operation of the club. Having said that, from time to time, have there been perceptions and is it an easy thing for somebody to make allegations when a commissioner has an interest in a team? Absolutely. To be able to eliminate that is obviously a relief and something he is very happy to be in a position to be able to do" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/17). Canning added, "Bud has been aware of the apparent conflict of interest, although I can tell you he is religious about keeping the Chinese Wall between him and the Brewers. ... When Wendy started to pull out, when there was no Selig involved, he was ready. Now we're in position to make this transition" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/17).

Brewers Have Nowhere To Go But Up

VALUE PLAY? Sportscorp President Marc Ganis, on the value of the team: "The Brewers have a number of very strong factors in their favor. They have a new stadium, and the perception of the team in the marketplace is that there is nowhere to go but up. On the downside, there is a limited broadcasting market, they have a limited amount of talent, and the perception is of a losing team. There's no positive buzz." Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy has "already received one call from a potential investor, whom he declined to identify" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/18). Selig: "I think the game is so popular now, and we've changed the economic landscape with the new [CBA]. I feel good about where we are (as an industry). I hope we've increased the interest in buying teams. We'll find out in Milwaukee" (MILWAUKEE J-S, 1/18).

REAX: MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy released a statement that read in part, "We of course respect the decision of Commissioner Selig and the other owners to take this step, and we will do everything we can to facilitate the sale" (MLB). A JOURNAL SENTINEL editorial stated, "New ownership presumably would mean an infusion of money to beef up the team's payroll and give it a realistic chance to compete with baseball's have rather than fight with other have-nots" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/17). In Milwaukee, Michael Hunt wrote, "The belated good news for everyone now — Selig most definitely included, because his job as commissioner will become somewhat easier once the title changes hands — is that the door is finally ajar for new ownership" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/18).

AUDIT WILL CONTINUE: Wisconsin legislators will "continue to push for state review" of the Brewers' finances, despite the plans to put the team up for sale. Assembly Speaker John Gard: "One way or the other, we've got to get this thing done" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/19).

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