Saturday, August 13, 2005


Eight bidders? Fluid requirements? Bud Selig "calling the shots"? Yeah, this'll go smoothly.

In today's Washington Post, Thomas Heath provides a fascinating, long look at the Nats Derby which, ostensibly, should culminate with an owner being selected before summer's out. Or so we've been told . . .

The principal suitors for the franchise haven't changed in the past four months, but several groups have fleshed out their lineups or brought aboard financial ringers, such as Albert Lord and (gasp!) George Soros. To recap, here are the bidders (with main movers-and-shaker listed) at the moment:

---> Team Gravitas (Fred Malek; Jeffrey Zients; Colin Powell).
---> Team Commie (Jonathan Ledecky; Soros).
---> Team Family (Ted Lerner; Mark Lerner).
---> Team Jesse (Yusef Jackson, son of Jesse; Ronard Burkle, a grocer).
---> Team Rocky Top (Tennesseans Franklin Haney, Sr., and Jr.).
---> Team Baseball Man (Stan Kasten; Mystery Investor).
---> Team Gravel Pit (Bill Collins; Lord).
---> Team Blah (Jeff Smulyan, media mogul and former Mariners' owner).

Heath's article is too long and involved to summarize effectively, so I commend you to read it. But here are three points of interest:

1. With the obvious exception of Team Commie, relatively obscure groups have jumped out with bigger bids:

Initial bids have ranged from about $350 million to around $400 million, and some groups have orally committed to going much higher, according to people familiar with the bidding process. Those believed to be at the high end of the bidding include Haney, Jackson and Burkle, and Ledecky and Soros, according to various sources.

Kasten, Smulyan and Lord and Collins are in play as well. The league informally indicated to some groups, among them Malek and Zients, and Lerner, that their bids were at the lower end of the scale, according to sources. Those two groups, at least, would be willing to spend more, but it's not clear how much more, according to those sources.

To an extent, that makes sense, as I get the feeling that Team Rocky Top and Team Jesse have to establish some street cred in this process, while it would appear Team Commie wants to make waves; on the other hand, Team Gravitas and Team Baseball Man, to name two, have name recognition within the industry and can pace themselves. We've been told that Team Gravitas is more than sufficiently capitalized, so I wouldn't expect lack of funds to hold those dudes back.

2. The guy has been brought on as a consultant.

Heath's article mentions that MLB is breaking down the potential owners in several vectors of compatibility with what MLB seeks the winner to possess and represent. These include:

---> "Baseball Insiders": Those with knowledge of the industry.
---> "Family": Those ownership teams most representing a close corporation, rather than unduly diverse concerns and motivations.
---> "Local Connections": Those who would gratify the members of the DC community, especially the City Council and Mayor, that lured the team here in the first place.

3. What a Bud wants . . .

The "best" suitor might not end up with the team, of course. It pretty much comes down to what the Seligulans want to orchestrate. See, e.g., In re Sale of Red Sox:

[Henry/Werner/Lucchino] won the team despite a purportedly higher bid offered at the last minute by cable television
billionaire Charles F. Dolan. But the sale, which was conducted by the team's longtime owner, a trust established by the late Tom Yawkey, was investigated by the Massachusetts attorney general's office, which suggested Selig had "called the shots" to steer the team toward Henry.

Well, this should be fun, right? Play ball!

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