SBJ/June 1 - 7, 1998/No Topic Name
His father's son: Veeck covets piece of Twins
Published June 1, 1998
Mike Veeck, one of the more innovative promoters in minor-league baseball, has mounted his white horse.
Now, it's up to Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad to decide whether he's willing to let Veeck ride in and lasso the wayward franchise for the Twin Cities.
Veeck, who is in the process of selling his interest in the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, met midway through last month with Pohlad's financial adviser, Bob Starkey, pitching a plan to buy a portion of the Twins.
Veeck came away doubting that the team is actually for sale, but hopeful that Pohlad might at least add him as a significant investor with the chance to expand his share down the line. He was preparing an ownership plan for submission to Pohlad.
"I don't think [negotiations] are anywhere yet," said Veeck, whose father, Bill, was one of baseball's more colorful owners in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. "I don't think it's for sale. I think he [Pohlad] got some lousy advice on how to go about getting the stadium that he wants.
"I just asked if there was any alternative plan [other than moving the team] that could be suggested. I think they're willing to listen."
Pohlad signed a letter of intent to sell the team to North Carolina nursing home magnate Don Beaver, but that deal lost momentum when voters in North Carolina's Triad area turned down a tax that would've paid for a stadium.
City fathers in Charlotte now are considering whether to latch on to Beaver's proposal.
Veeck said he would use proceeds from the sale of the Saints his share is expected to be about $1 million as his only personal stake in the Twins. Comic actor Bill Murray, who invested in the Saints, would have a role in helping fund Veeck's purchase. And Veeck said he plans to rely on the backing of two wealthy cousins, Frederick Krehbiel and John Hammond Krehbiel Jr., who ranked 208th and 335th on last year's Forbes 400. The Krehbiel family backed Veeck's father when he owned ballclubs. The brothers' combined estimated wealth: $1.4 billion.
"I've got my family, and I've got Mr. Murray," Mike Veeck said. "And you can always find a banker. Financing is the least of the problems. The real point is whether there is any way to buy in."
Veeck pointed out that the perception that Pohlad was shaking down the region for a new stadium was, in effect, the greatest roadblock to getting one. He said he's convinced that, if marketed properly, the club could sustain itself at the Metrodome while a restructured ownership group lobbied for stadium funding.
Several opponents of public funding for a ballpark have said Veeck's presence isn't likely to change their minds.
But Veeck remained intent upon taking his swing.
"The ball is definitely in my court now," Veeck said. "Maybe it's a lost cause. But I'm the patron saint of lost causes. It took dad seven years to buy the Tigers. So understand that it may take a while. Whatever it takes, I want a shot at operating a [major league] club."