Saturday, March 10, 2012

Moorad's MLB problem

As you no doubt have heard by now, yesterday San Diego Padres CEO Jeff Moorad withdrew his application to take control of the club.  Tim Sullivan wrote a pretty good description of what's going on late yesterday afternoon, and it included some quotes from the Padres press release.  The full release is below.

The San Diego Padres today announced that Vice Chairman and CEO Jeff Moorad has withdrawn his application to Major League Baseball for a control transfer, in order to expedite MLB approval of the club’s television broadcasting agreement.

“With Opening Day less than one month away, John Moores and I believe our top priority is to ensure that Padres fans will be able to watch broadcasts of what we believe is an exciting baseball team,” said Moorad. “I remain fully committed to the San Diego Padres and our fans, and am looking forward to the 2012 season.”

The club will have no further comment until MLB completes its approval process.

Yes it is just that short. And terse.

There's a lot of intrigue associated with this development.  First is the fact that apparently there's sufficient opposition to Moorad assuming control of the Padres to prevent Bud Selig from putting the transfer to a vote.  According to published reports, Jerry Reinsdorf and Ken Kendrick are two of the owners putting up the most obstacles.  It's as if because Moorad isn't a member of the Good Old Boys network he's not allowed to have a seat at the main table.  It's not as if he's never owned part of a team - he was, as we all know, part-owner of the Diamondbacks.  Could his exit from Arizona been so messy he made a permanent enemy of Kendrick?  Was his negotiating style so caustic he made permanent enemies of 9 owners, who have Reinsdorf as the face of their discontent?

And if his ownership was so galling why in the world did the owners allow Moorad to acquire 49% of the team in the first place?  Seems odd.

At first I thought the delay was solely because of Selig's desire for consensus - he is fairly well-known for liking unanimous votes on things.  With 2 owners identified publicly as against Moorad's ownership, I thought Selig was just waiting for a chance to speak them privately and convince them to change their minds.  Do the rogue owners have the votes to block Moorad's ownership outright?  Can nothing Selig says change their position?  That assumes Selig wants him as an owner.

All the intrigue over the vote is on one side.  Now one has to wonder if, in addition to the concerns about having the votes, if this delay isn't fall-out from the recent financial black eyes MLB has taken.  Texas had to file for bankruptcy and be sold.  Houston was sold for financial reasons as well.  The Wilpons,owners of the Mets, got mixed up with Bernie Madoff and are walking the ragged edge of disaster.  And then there's the soap opera in Los Angeles.  Despite Moorad's statements to the contrary, there have also been persistent rumors he doesn't have the cash to pull this purchase off.  MLB was under diligent in vetting Tom Hicks and Frank McCourt, so naturally the pendulum has now swung to over-conservatism in selling teams to new ownership - see the 9 month delay in finalizing the Astros sale, and now us.

Approval of the TV deal San Diego has made with Fox was held up by MLB pending the transfer of ownership. It apparently was also held up due to concerns the up-front money Fox will pay the Padres would be used to pay off the other investors in the team vice funneled back into players and facilities.  Moorad's removing his application for transfer means the TV deal can be approved, and since Moorad doesn't have the final say on where the money goes (one would think John Moores does) it likely won't be spent on reimbursements.  Getting the TV deal finalized is a good thing, since the first spring training telecast is less than 10 days away.

This little dance is far from over.  At least Moorad has another 2 years to consummate the deal.  Maybe he can convince his enemies he's not that bad a guy after all.

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