Silicon Valley investor may buy A's
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| By okplayer on Friday, December 27, 2002 - 11:53 pm:|
Perhaps this will provide a little holiday cheer!
Article Last Updated: Friday, December 27, 2002 - 8:13:45 AM MST
Silicon Valley investor may buy A's
Anonymous buyer who 'loves downtown Oakland' could revive hopes for new ballpark
By Robert Gammon - STAFF WRITER
A well-heeled Silicon Valley investor interested in a new downtown Oakland A's ballpark is gearing up to buy a half-interest in the baseball team with an eye on taking full control of the A's after the 2003 season, The Oakland Tribune has learned.
The young, ambitious venture capitalist, who wishes to remain anonymous while he assembles a group of investors to purchase the A's, plans to make a written offer in the next few weeks to buy out team co-owner Ken Hofmann, two high-ranking sources familiar with the potential deal said Thursday.
Hofmann has been rumored to be interested in selling his stake in the A's for the past few years. One source estimated Hofmann's 50 percent ownership is worth $70 million to $75 million.
The investor -- who one source said "loves downtown Oakland" as a site for a new A's ballpark -- and his group want to buy the entire franchise, but the other A's owner, Steve Schott, is not yet ready to sell his half. Oakland A's owner Steve Schott. Nick Lammers - STAFF FILE PHOTO
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Schott wants to hold onto his 50 percent share because he believes the A's are bonafide contenders to win the World Series in 2003, the sources said. The A's have made the playoffs each of the past three years, but have not won the Series since 1989.
Either winning the championship in 2003, getting a new stadium deal, or both, would dramatically increase the value of Schott's share of the team.
According to the proposed deal, Schott would remain managing partner of the A's through the 2003 season, the sources said. After that, the new investor -- who has not been linked with previous rumored sales of the A's -- and his group would take over.
"He thinks he can buy out Schott and he has the money to do it," one source said of the Silicon Valley investor. "He's young, he's ambitious, he's got a lot of money and he's got a good group behind him."
News of the possible deal to sell the team rekindled hope Thursday for A's fans who had all but given up on the idea of a new A's ballpark, which the A's and Major League Baseball have said Oakland needs to remain financially viable. Without a ballpark, some fans worried the team may eventually leave Oakland.
"That would be great. What a Christmas present -- post-Christmas," Lil Bartholo, head of the Oakland A's Fan Coalition, said of the possible team sale. "It would be a shot in the arm for fans."
A's officials did not return phone calls requesting comment Thursday.
Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb, the primary backer of keeping the team in Oakland and building a new downtown stadium, would not comment on the new investor or the possible sale of the team.
One source said Major League Baseball is aware of the Silicon Valley venture capitalist and may be willing to approve the deal. The league spurned the last serious offer for the A's in 1999.
The possible deal to sell the team would be the third in the past 17 months. In August 2001, Mandalay Entertainment of Hollywood almost bought the A's for $150 million. Then in July 2002, a deal to sell the team to Washington, D.C., investor Jonathan Ledecky for $170 million collapsed after Ledecky reportedly missed a deadline for making a $12 million deposit on the team. In both instances, the team denied the A's were for sale.
In addition, Schott said in spring 2001 that he wanted to relocate the A's to Santa Clara to a site next to Great America, but those plans were later put on hold indefinitely.
Now, sources say there may be a renewed attempt to move the team to Santa Clara if the new deal to sell the A's to the Silicon Valley investor falls through. Santa Clara has a new mayor who supported Schott's previous plans. Also, sources said there may be an interest in relocating the team to San Jose.
Hopes for a new downtown Oakland A's ballpark were just about abandoned earlier this month when the City Council, at the behest of Mayor Jerry Brown, decided to press ahead on a major housing project.
The Forest City housing development is to be built on the same site in "uptown" Oakland identified by respected baseball experts as the best spot in the East Bay for a new A's ballpark.
Brown and City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente have viewed the ballpark plan as just a pipe dream and the Forest City project as a key component in the mayor's plan to bring 10,000 new residents to downtown Oakland.
In addition, Schott and Hofmann failed to step forward and publicly support the uptown stadium plan, which, coupled with the mayor and the council's support for the Forest City deal, prompted ballpark proponents to essentially give up the fight for a ballpark in uptown.
"At the end of the day, it doesn't make sense for us to sit on the uptown site when the Oakland A's have expressed no more than a casual interest," Bobb said Thursday.
Most fans and ballpark supporters in the past few months came to believe there could be no new A's stadium in downtown unless the team was sold. Now, the new Silicon Valley investor could be exactly what they had longed for.
One source said the new investor "loves downtown Oakland" as a site for a new ballpark. And uptown, which is mostly a parking lot, remains the only stadium spot in the area that makes any financial sense. A ballpark in uptown is estimated to cost at least $350 million to $400 million.
City Hall insiders, meanwhile, have speculated that Forest City may be losing interest in the uptown deal because of the ailing economy. Forest City also is said to want a higher public subsidy than the $60 million the council tentatively approved last week.
But De La Fuente said Thursday that while he would attempt to work with new A's owners, any speculation that Forest City will call off the housing deal is off base.
"Nobody is going to stop this deal -- no way," he said.
De La Fuente said he was aware of the Silicon Valley investor's interest in the A's, but is skeptical about any deal to sell half of the team now. He said it would make more sense for Schott to buy out Hofmann and then sell the team later if it wins the World Series.
| By deajay on Saturday, December 28, 2002 - 09:35 am:|
I guess my question is, does Schott really think this team might win the '03 WS when the tightwad won't even give Billy enough room to get any right handed punch for the bench? Tightness personified, when you're cheap enough to think Byrnes and Piatt will suffice in that role. And we haven't even mentioned the needs in the pen.
| By kevink on Saturday, December 28, 2002 - 01:52 pm:|
Well this is great news.
When does this guy expect to come along and put his money where his mouth is?
This must have to come with Selig's approval. Why though? What does he have to approve? What if Hofmann keeled over? Then Selig would have to allow someone to buy out his half, right?
All this speculation is getting crazy. Nobody believes anything anymore.
I hope this one is for real, but I'm not going to get my hopes up yet.
| By gregorymark on Monday, December 30, 2002 - 12:30 pm:|
Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of Selig...Not I. But I think that since this is all speculation and news leakage, Selig would have no say one way or another. He might be willing to allow an interested group buy-out Hoffman, but may put the breaks on a deal to have them buy-out Schott, particularly if they don't have a plan for a new stadium.
We can only hope that 2003 will be Schott's final year as owner. We can only hope that Selig won't stonewall a local group phasing-in.
| By diamond_lil on Monday, December 30, 2002 - 01:01 pm:|
Who knows if Schott doesn't actually reverse roles and becomes the silent partner in a new ownership.
I really wouldn't care...let him keep padding his bank account while he enjoys his grandkids...
If a new, young and vibrant ownership group takes the leadership of the team, it would be the ideal.
But I agree with you Greg. Who knows what Selig and Co. has planned and in store for this franchise. That to me is the 64K question.
| By rono on Monday, December 30, 2002 - 10:28 pm:|
Hofmann turns 80 this year and is concerned about his businesses and estate since there is no one in his family to take them over and run them . He will eventually just sell out. Schott will turn 60 this year and is not interested in selling even when he says he will ,as we have sadly found out in the past.
8? more years until the estate tax is repealed. Can he make it?
| By oaktownfan on Wednesday, January 01, 2003 - 06:07 pm:|
I've read reactions towards this story on different A's boards and I'm surprised of the majority of the fan's reaction towards it. It seems A's fans are just obliviously negative towards the news of a owner interested in buying the A's. I know news of this has been leaked out before but I feel you have to some optimism with this sort of news anytime you can see it. Some may call others who believe this news fools but call me a fool, I don't give a damn. If there's news about a change in ownership, I'm going to take it seriously. There has to be a reason why Billy Beane stayed. I think the reasons he gave to stay: his daughter and he didn't want to leave his blueprint of this team were a smokescreen because he knew someone with deep pockets would buy the team soon after he announced he would stay. Come on, you think Beane would stay and work with the same shoestring budget he has been working with for the next decade. Everybody thought he would leave when we saw the newspaper headlines of the owners letting him speak with the Red Sox, but he stayed. I'm just hoping hoping that this organization will be saved by some knight riding on a white horse like it did with Cuban buying the Mavs or even Eddie D buying the Niners across the bay. A young brash owner who would do anything to get a championship.
| By rocket on Thursday, January 02, 2003 - 11:44 am:|
A's deny sale is imminent
The new A's PR man, Spear earns his pay
| By diamond_lil on Thursday, January 02, 2003 - 12:06 pm:|
Rocket, last time Sam Spear denied a sale was imminent, the bidder even had a deadline set for a 12 million non refundable deposit. It seems the investor had been highly recommended by Selig but had no guarantees he would be able to relocate the team to Washington.
I suppose after the deposit, the bidder would then be considered by Sam Spear as a "bonafide" buyer but of course with no strings attached.
If Schott has plans to start courting Santa Clara for a ballpark again, he has to keep any sale talk very quiet and that is very hard to do with a PR guy like Sam Spear, who has been constantly contradicted by his own boss. Schott suffers from 'foot in the mouth disease' and a PR disaster waiting to happen.
| By rocket on Thursday, January 02, 2003 - 02:06 pm:|
I do agree with your post.
With Santa Clara changing mayors, they
are hinting at re-opening talks with
Once again the A's fans will be subjected
to another chapter in the floating
franchise...where will it land?
| By gralow on Wednesday, January 15, 2003 - 09:27 pm:|
Hey, Does anyone have an idea as to who this potential new owner is? Also, Okplayer - where did you get that article? SF Chronicle? Thanks.
| By eyleenn on Wednesday, January 15, 2003 - 10:26 pm:|
That article was by Robert Gammon of the Oakland Tribune.
| By fansince79 on Wednesday, January 15, 2003 - 11:32 pm:|
Santa Clara talk again? Big difference this time though, the economy. There were quite a few south-bayers who were not in favor of motivating the A's to move their way via greenback and I would guess there would be more today with that region in double digit unemployment.
Am I the only one who smells a connection between DLF and Forest City? Why would he be so adamant about the Forest City plan happening with city support and so against a new ballpark? Or am I just stirring the pot?
| By diamond_lil on Thursday, January 16, 2003 - 10:07 am:|
There is definitely a connection between DLF and Mayor Jerry Brown with Forest City. In fact it has already been written they were major contributors to both these men's political compaigns.
The other reason DLF doesn't want a ballpark in another area of town is because he is part of the JPA who controls the Coli and he doesn't want to lose that control. If the A's move Uptown or to another area, DLF is out of the picture and will just be acting at the City Council level, which is bad enough...
Just wanted to note that I'm moving this thread to the Off Field matters for the sake of organization of the forum. Even though there's not much going on about baseball, we try to separate the two issues - A's baseball from the business and relocation issues and other matters.
| By fansince79 on Thursday, January 16, 2003 - 02:39 pm:|
Lil, thanks for the clarification, eye opening.
Is this connection something that is written about enough in the media? I've read quite a few articles on the uptown site, the Forest City proposal, etc. and never seen mention of it. Is it somewhere the press does not like to go?
| By diamond_lil on Thursday, January 16, 2003 - 03:26 pm:|
Robert Gammon has mentioned the political involvement both DLF and Brown have with Forest City.
I only found this from an article where Gammon mentions briefly:
Meanwhile, Forest City, a politically connected developer with ties to the mayor, has come under criticism for requesting a $41 million public subsidy from the city to build an 807-unit apartment complex in uptown...
but if you go to this page of our website where we've linked most articles and columns re the ballpark issues, you may find more details re the campaign contributions.
| By diamond_lil on Thursday, January 16, 2003 - 03:50 pm:|
here's what else I found after a brief search re Forest City political connections:
The proposed housing development also has local developers and City Hall insiders wondering whether it is really a sweetheart deal between the mayor and his politically connected friends.
In a recent interview, Brown downplayed his relationship with a Forest City top executive and the $25,000 in soft-money campaign contributions a political action committee he co-founded received from the development team two years ago.
Brown and De La Fuente are so convinced the Forest City deal represents the best move for Oakland that they have squelched public discussion of a competing plan for the uptown site -- a downtown-ballpark-entertainment district.
The DLF connection is of course through the Mayor, who gives him the chair of President of the City Council and JPA.
| By fansince79 on Friday, January 17, 2003 - 12:20 am:|
Wow, all very eye opening. But I have to say, still, disappointingly, too dull a light seems to be shining on this via media. If I, as a big A's fan and a big Oakland supporter, have heard almost nothing on this then I would have to think the regular Joe's and Jane's have heard nada.
I can understand how this sort of pandering can happen at higher levels of government with little press - these politicos and citizens are just too far removed. But I would expect more press at such a local level. It seems only too clear that the Mayor and his sidekick are muscling this deal through for their buddies. Even if you take the ballpark out of the deal it is still wool over Oaklanders eyes as they subsidize their friend's project with $60 mil of our hard earned money.
I would be willing to give Jerry and DLF the benefit of the doubt, but with them conductiong closed door meetings and squelching all discussion of alternate proposals with gag orders the smell is just too strong. Ain't this a democracy? And Perata too huh?
Not to mention the design ideas sound like crap! :-)
Ok, I'll switch gears now.
Grudgingly admitting the ballpark is not going to arise at that location, are there any ideas on what another possibility might be?
And has there been any further word on this Silicon Valley benefactor?
Well, we try to keep our ears and eyes open and keep everybody as informed as we can.
There will be a formal presentation of HOK to the JPA possibly on January 23rd. Some of us plan to be there and we'll report back what we hear at the presentation and reactions or leaks from the politicos.
We know that Forest City would be more than willing to incorporate their housing project with the ballpark plan. But with this present ownership, nothing will get done in that front. The word out is that this new bidder for the A's likes the idea of the downtown ballpark.
The Coliseum site is the second most recommended by the HOK study. We heard the JPA is leaning heavily towards that site because they would keep control as it is now. They would like to develop that area around the Coli which would be great but not the best location as an urban area.
On the change of ownership front, we're all waiting to hear the drop of the other shoe...all we heard is that there's a rich guy wanting to buy Hofmann's shares because Schott refuses to sell his part this year...he thinks they can win the WS...
I think it has a lot more to do with his Santa Clara pipe dream that he still feels has a chance. He wants to be the hometown hero and this guy is all about ego and money.
However, he probably knows or has been told a lot more about how Selig and his cronies won't approve any A's sale until they settle their Montreal deal. I really think they want to leave their relocation teams in a bubble and open as option...especially now that contraction is out of the picture until 2006... the A's are one of their relocation cards.
PS: of course we are keeping our ears and eyes open to see if anything happens in Santa Clara, with the new Mayor who supports Schott's idea of relocating there. I don't believe there's venture capitalist money there to realize Schotsie's little pipe dream. And they would have to dish out a lot of money to the Giants first and foremost.
| By chris_d on Saturday, January 18, 2003 - 10:37 pm:|
While we're talking about downtown Oakland and a ballpark...This week I was talking to a guy who manages several sports merchandising stores around the Bay Area, but they have none in Oakland. I asked him if he was interested in getting an Oakland location. He replied, "If they put that new ballpark in downtown Oakland, we'd be real interested to put a new store around there."
I imagine he's not the only one who'd like to invest in downtown Oakland if/when a new ballpark goes there. All we need now is a team owner and a few more politicos with the same smart vision.
| By oaktownfan on Monday, January 20, 2003 - 05:52 am:|
The ballpark in the uptown location is the smartest site. Not only is it the cheapest, it would make the biggest impact in the community around it. More businesses will want to come to the downtown area if there's a brand new park there where it'll draw close to 3 million and be a year around venue to draw events like concerts. That's prime and rich area of the city and it would be a shame to not build a park or any type of venue where it could draw people there not only to live but come to spend money.
Why would anyone but the JPA want to build a 400+ million dollar park in a cement parking lot surrounded by a gated area. What land is there to develop. It's not like that area has a lot of potential, I'm sorry but it's one of the worst areas in the city. It would've been like building Pac Bell next to the stick.
Schott for all his trouble will never ever bring the A's to the south bay. His "pipe dream" will never happen. The Giants will never allow that to happen and the closest thing to it, the Fremont site will never pass. Not only is it in the middle of nowhere, the residence will never agree to have a park there. Building a park right next to a high density residential neigborhood makes no sense.