SBD/August 17, 2012/Franchises

MLB Approves Sale Of Padres To Group Led By Seidler, O'Malleys, Fowler

MLB owners Thursday at league meetings in Denver took less than 10 minutes to formally approve the sale of the Padres to a group led by San Diego businessman and former minority owner Ron Fowler, who is now the designated control exec of the club. The approval sets up an expected closing of the estimated $800M sale from John Moores within the next 10-14 days. After the fractious collapse of a prior, Jeff Moorad-led bid to buy the club, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig hailed the Fowler group and the relative ease with which the transaction was done. Fowler, for his part, pledged to instill a sense of local pride in the incoming ownership group. "What we hope this means is that we're starting on a long, consistent ownership group," he said of his fellow investors, which include several members of the O'Malley family. Moores, meanwhile, departed Denver right after the vote. Selig said of Moores, "John did a lot of wonderful things for baseball. He was very helpful for me, particularly during a time (in the 1990s) when things weren't frankly as great as they are right now. I know it's the right thing for him to do. Believe me, I like John Moores a lot. He did a lot for this sport. A lot” (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MLB.com’s Barry Bloom noted the new ownership group is the fifth for the Padres since the franchise was founded in ’69. Fowler is the “first locally-based control person of the Padres since founding owner C. Arnholdt Smith.” Ownership group member Peter Seidler said that “neither he nor any member of his family wanted an out-front role in the ownership group." So they "agreed to make Fowler the face of the franchise because of his standing in the community” (MLB.com, 8/16).

CHANGING OF THE GUARD:
In San Diego, Bill Center notes MLB “identifies the new owners as the ‘Seidler/O’Malley families and Ron Fowler.” Seidler said, “However you describe us, let everyone in San Diego know that we are happy to be the owners of the Padres and excited to get going.” Center notes Fowler, the CEO of beer distributor Liquid Investments, has been “designated the ‘control person’ of the new ownership group and Thursday was identified by Seidler as the group’s ‘executive chairman.’” The ownership percentages were “not detailed," but more information “about the structure of the new ownership group and what its plans are will be made after the purchase” is completed on or before Aug. 31. Seidler reiterated that CEO Tom Garfinkel and GM Josh Byrnes will remain with the club. Center noted the meeting was “less than 10 minutes old” when Moores “opened the door to the meeting room, shook hands with members of the new ownership team and departed” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/17). Moores, on the end of his tenure, said, “I had blinders on. I didn't want anybody to think I was upset or anything.” MLB.com’s Bloom noted Selig and Moores “both have a soft spot for each other as this era in Padres history comes winding toward closure.” Moores said, “Our conversation was terrific. We had our ups and downs, but we obviously agreed more than we disagreed. On this last transaction, he did the best thing for me, my kids and San Diego. So what the heck, I’m grateful” (MLB.com, 8/16).

WORK TO DO:
In San Diego, Chris Jenkins writes, “There were no champagne corks flying around the visiting clubhouse at Turner Field, even though it’s generally believed that the new ownership is expected to improve the financial commitment to the lowest-salaried team in the majors leagues. If anything, the players were just relieved to know that people would stop asking for their thoughts on something they try not to think about.” Padres 3B Chase Headley said, “I don’t know necessarily what it means. It’s a positive step that it’s been resolved. It’s been a long time coming.” Padres VP & Assistant GM A.J. Hinch said, “The resolution is good for everybody, great for everybody. The guys in here are focused on today’s game. … They don’t need to concern themselves too much with stuff outside the lines” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/17). SI.com’s Jay Jaffe noted because FS San Diego has been unable to come to an agreement with Time Warner Cable and various satellite providers in order to “carry the Padres locally; only Cox Cable and DirecTV viewers have been able to watch, leaving some 40 percent of San Diego County in the dark.” The team “needs to step in and make sure that fans have access to their team in order to rebuild interest” (SI.com, 8/16). MLB Network’s John Hart said, "It’s always a good sign for a smaller market, for a franchise and an organization to have local ownership.” Hart: “As the price escalates in some of these clubs, they really have a TV package that’s going to work for them now. … What this does for the club when you look at your revenue coming in, instead of $12-14 million on a TV contract, it’s going to be $60 million-plus a year, which I think is going to allow that franchise to operate a little stronger” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 8/16).

MIXED FEELINGS:
In California, Jay Paris writes, “Let confetti rain from the sunny summer skies. That those pieces of paper contain so many broken promises, and have a Dodger Blue hue to them, doesn't matter.” Moores "is gone, and while his stay came with pluses, it's addition by subtraction” (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 8/17). In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote it is “one of those times for putting the hands together in polite applause while fighting back a tear.” It is “not difficult to argue that O’Malley was more the Los Angeles Dodgers than Sandy Koufax or Vin Scully,” and now “he owns” the Padres. Despite “how good it is for baseball and the Padres, it feels wrong on multiple levels, or at least unnatural.” You “think O’Malley and you think Dodger blue, not whatever color scheme the Padres have this season” (L.A. TIMES, 8/16).

EXPECT THE BOLD:
In San Diego, Jenkins wrote, “San Diego doesn’t need to be told that getting new ownership can mean one thing or quite another. If there’s a franchise that turned things around quickly -- then saw the situation almost immediately change -- it’s the Padres.” Moores and former President & CEO Larry Lucchino “did a masterful job of resuscitating local support from the start in San Diego.” What the O’Malley family brings is “instant credibility as baseball people.” Padres fans “can see the ratification of the new ownership group as a quantum leap toward the improvement of the baseball environment in San Diego” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/16).
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San Diego Padres, MLB

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