Thursday, January 19, 2006
Owners approve sale of Reds to Cincinnati produce mogul
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Baseball owners unanimously approved
the sale of baseball's oldest franchise, the Cincinnati Reds, on
Thursday to a group headed by produce mogul Robert Castellini.
Carl Lindner, the 86-year-old Cincinnati financier who owned the
franchise, had three potential buyers whose offers were roughly the
same but chose Castellini largely because of his local ties.
Lindner will remain a minority partner.
"Local ownership there was critical, and it was crucial to Carl
Lindner," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "The one
overriding goal we had was to have local ownership."
Terms weren't announced, but Castellini's group is said to be
acquiring about 70 percent ownership of a franchise worth an
estimated $270 million.
The Castellini family founded a shipping company along the Ohio
River in 1896, 27 years after the Cincinnati Red Stockings became
baseball's first professional team. Today, the company is one of
the largest shippers of fruit and vegetables in the United States.
Castellini chose not to discuss his acquisition of the team on
Thursday. He saved his comments for a news conference at Great
American Ball Park on Friday.
"Mr. Castellini wanted his first comments to be live and in
public before the fans of Cincinnati," Castellini spokesman Joe
Bride said earlier. "He wanted to talk directly to the fans of
Cincinnati from Cincinnati."
The new ownership group includes William Jr. and Thomas
Williams, who come from a family that owned the team during the
1970s. The three were part of fellow Cincinnati resident Bill
Dewitt Jr.'s ownership group of the St. Louis Cardinals.
They are in the process of divesting their Cardinals' interests,
according to Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.
"He's a partner in the Cardinals and he's been with Bill DeWitt
in other deals," Selig said. "Everybody raves about him. He's
very personable and a Cincinnati man. I think it's great. Frankly
this was an easy one. This was quick."
Selig said he first met Castellini about a year ago and spoke
with him again on Wednesday night.
They take over a franchise with a storied history but with no
playoff appearances since 1995. The Reds have had five straight
losing seasons, their longest slump in 50 years.
The Williams family owned part of the Reds until local car
dealer Marge Schott bought controlling interest in the team in
1984. The Reds won a World Series in 1990 but Schott's
often-offensive remarks overshadowed anything the team did on the
Under pressure from Major League Baseball, Schott sold her
controlling shares for $67 million to Lindner's group in 1999.
Owners also heard reports on the unsettled situation with the
Washington Nationals and the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Sale of the Nationals by major league baseball has been held up
until the District of Columbia Council approves a lease agreement
for a new stadium.
"You know, life doesn't always move just as you'd like it,"
Selig said. "Of course, if I had my druthers, this would have been
over a long time ago. But there are a lot of things that have
happened, and I wouldn't do anything differently.
"I know I've heard some criticism of us, particularly in
Washington, which I think is unfair but everybody's entitled to
their opinion. But look, if you were buying a team the first
question you'd ask is, `What's the stadium situation and what's my
Selig said he had talked to eight prospective owners and has
reached a conclusion about each.
"When I know we are getting close, I'll make a decision," he
DuPuy said that all announcements regarding sponsorship and
other details of the World Baseball Classic are on hold while
baseball awaits a decision from the Bush administration on whether
Cuba will be allowed to compete on U.S. soil.
"We're still waiting to hear," Selig said.
One word that didn't come up is "steroids." Selig's brief
meeting with the press on Thursday was in the same room that
baseball announced a toughened anti-steroids agreement, a deal that
was revised again in November with even tougher penalties.
"How well I remember," Selig said of that packed news
conference a year ago.
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this story