Reinsdorf's Ownership Decisions Reached As High As The Presidency

Jerry Reinsdorf decided he had too many irons in the baseball fire. So in 2007, he gave up his seat on MLB’s ownership committee, an influential group that vets franchise sales.

“In retrospect,” Reinsdorf says, “I wish I hadn’t.”

Reinsdorf cares deeply about who is admitted to the ownership ranks. There are several stories of him leading the blockage of team sales, and he says there are even more that never came to light.

One, Reinsdorf likes to say with a smile, led to the election of a U.S. president.

Reinsdorf was chairman of the ownership committee in the 1980s when Texas Rangers majority partner Eddie Chiles reached agreement to sell the team to Eddie Gaylord, whose holdings included a Fort Worth television station and a national cable network. Gaylord had no other ties to the Dallas area. Reinsdorf worried that he would use the Rangers to launch a superstation, as Ted Turner and his neighbors from the Tribune Co. had.

“In the economics of that time, if you owned a television station you could come out ahead by losing money on the team but making it good on the television side,” Reinsdorf said. “So I didn’t want Gaylord. I led that one. But Buddy (Selig, then the Milwaukee Brewers owner) was with me. If he hadn’t been I couldn’t have done it.”

After the league voted not to approve the sale, then-Commissioner Peter Ueberroth approached Reinsdorf with an assignment.

“OK, you got rid of Gaylord,” Ueberroth said. “But Eddie Chiles is 85 years old and he’s got to sell his team. You go find somebody.”

Reinsdorf found George W. Bush. He couldn’t afford the Rangers on his own, but Reinsdorf had a solution. He paired him with Richard Rainwater, a billionaire investor who was willing to put up the money but wasn’t comfortable with the public nature of ownership. “I got a guy,” Reinsdorf told him. Bush would be the front man; Rainwater would write the check. “And the rest is history,” Reinsdorf said.

“[Bush] invited me to a luncheon here about a year before his presidency ended,” Reinsdorf said. “There were a bunch of CEOs there. The cardinal [Cardinal Francis George of Chicago] was there. He said, ‘Before we get started, I just want you to know that I wouldn’t be president if it wasn’t for Jerry Reinsdorf.’

“At the time he wasn’t too popular,” Reinsdorf said, chuckling. “I wanted to go under the table.”

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