SBD/May 16, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Cardinals' DeWitt Leading MLB Search For Selig's Successor; No Search Firm Hired

DeWitt did not outline a projected timeline to identify leading candidates
MLB on Thursday announced that its new seven-man committee tasked with finding the successor to outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig will be chaired by Cardinals Chair & CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. Joining DeWitt on the new succession committee will be White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf, Rockies Owner Dick Monfort, Pirates Chair Bob Nutting, Angels Owner Arte Moreno, Phillies President & CEO Dave Montgomery and Twins CEO Jim Pohlad. The new panel will report to MLB’s Exec Council, and is aiming to be “respectful” of Selig’s planned retirement when his current contract expires in January. DeWitt, who said the group will be working in a confidential manner, did not outline a projected timeline to identify leading candidates. The panel has met several times already. DeWitt: “We will look to get input from all the clubs. It won’t just be a seven-man committee doing everything and informing them at the end. We’re obviously looking for a strong CEO, a visionary leader who has a passion for the game.” DeWitt added the potential field for a new commissioner is “wide open” and there is not any preexisting bias as to whether someone is currently working in baseball or not. Similarly, the seven owners on the committee are not necessarily precluded from being commissioner candidates themselves. The succession committee will present candidates to the Exec Council, and once clearing that body, must be approved by at least 23 of 30 team owners for election. Notable candidates for the post include current MLB COO Rob Manfred, MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman and Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan, but there is no defined heir apparent (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).

NO SEARCH FIRM NEEDED: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the panel will "operate on the belief that the 30 teams will be able to identify a comprehensive group of candidates, and it will not, for now, hire an executive recruiting firm." Selig "led the commissioner search committee that resulted in the hiring" in '84 of Peter Ueberroth to replace Bowie Kuhn, a process that "took about 15 months." Selig said of the difficulties of overseeing that search, "I wondered what I’d done wrong to deserve that job." DeWitt said that the committee "would solicit Selig’s opinion about his own preferred successor" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16).

TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW: MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote the league has "taken the next step in a process virtually no one wanted to begin in the first place." That is because the "vast majority of people inside the industry find it almost incomprehensible to imagine anyone other than Bud Selig leading the sport." MLB will "continue to flourish under its next Commissioner," but replacing Selig will "be a herculean task." DeWitt said, "He's done an incredible job in coalescing 30 clubs, all with different views on various matters, having them come together and almost always have 30-0 votes" (MLB.com, 5/15). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes it seems like the next commissioner "will be someone in baseball's inner circle." DeWitt: "I think anybody who has experience inside the game. That's valuable." The seven committee members, with Reinsdorf "being the most powerful, are quite close to Selig." If Reinsdorf "wanted to become commissioner, the job would be his tomorrow." But he is 78 and "has no interest." Neither does "popular" Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston. While Selig's successor "likely will be paid in excess" of $10M annually, with "security detail and the use of a private plane, there will be plenty of headaches." There is a labor deal "to be worked out by the end" of '16, and small-market teams already have been "grumbling about the disparity in local TV contracts." The amateur draft and int'l signings rules "likely will be revised." And, "always, there's the issue of player contracts." This time, MLB "won't have Selig coming to the rescue" (USA TODAY, 5/16). In DC, Dave Sheinin noted there is "certain to be speculation" regarding former President George W. Bush as the next commissioner (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/15). ESPN's Manny Acta said former MLB manager Tony LaRussa "would be perfect" to become the next commissioner. Acta: "He's at the right age. He's been on both sides of the business now working for MLB" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 5/15).

OTHER ISSUES ON THE AGENDA: Selig sidestepped questions as to whether he would consider some type of Commissioner Emeritus title. But he continued to echo prior comments about looking forward to retirement. He said, "There’s a time to come in life, and there’s a time to go, and this is a time to go, and there’s no sense in playing games." In other events from the quarterly owner meetings wrapping in N.Y., Selig again expressed support for the newly expanded instant replay system, which despite a few operational glitches is now pushing average review time below two minutes in length. Selig: "For something new, it’s really been good. Our fans like it, and it’s making the game better." The league also continues to work with various committees and team doctors to identify causes and potential remedies to the current rash of pitcher injuries. Selig said, “It’s a problem, no doubt about it. I’m almost afraid to pick up the paper anymore for fear of bad news” (Fisher). MLB.com's Paul Hagen noted Selig was asked if Montreal is "a viable candidate to get another franchise after two successful exhibition games were held at Olympic Stadium during Spring Training." He said, "They have a lot of work to do, but that was very impressive. I give them a lot of credit. ... Montreal can determine its own future" (MLB.com, 5/15).
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