10/29/2005

New Owners Near?

From today’s Cincinnati Post:

A decision is expected soon – maybe as early as next week – about new ownership and new top-to-bottom control of the oldest franchise in professional baseball.

“We’re getting very close. By December 1st the deal should be closed and approved and the new owners should be in place,” said Stephen D. Greenberg, managing partner of Allen & Co., the New York firm that is handling the sale of 51.5 percent of the Reds’ ownership.

But Greenberg and others familiar with a process that began shortly before Opening Day of the 2005 season in April suggested that the name of the buyer might be released well in advance of that date.

Two of the three groups that are still in the running to buy the majority stake have Cincinnati connections, Greenberg said.

A variety of sources have said that one of the groups with Cincinnati ties is headed by New York theater producer Rocco Landesman and one of his long-time associates, Rick Steiner, of Avondale, who also is a theater producer. The group includes Dan Staton, the president of the Walnut Group, a venture capital firm with offices downtown, and John Osher, a highly successful Cincinnati entrepreneur.

Steiner declined to comment.

A second group that has some links to Cincinnati is headed by Ronald Switzer, a CPA who is one of the principals of Switzer McGaughey & Co., an investment firm based in Lexington.

But two sources who asked that their names not be used said they believe the Lexington group’s bid is one of two that are no longer being given serious consideration.

Those sources said yet another group with Cincinnati ties – a group that has never been identified publicly – is among the three bidders that Greenberg is still negotiating with.

The one out-of-town bidder still in the running is New York attorney E. Miles Prentice III, who also is the president of the Huntsville, Ala., Stars, the Class AA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, according to sources familiar with the sales process.

Prentice’s $75 million bid for the Kansas City Royals in 1999 was overwhelmingly rejected by Major League Baseball owners. Two years later he bid a reported $755 million for the Boston Red Sox, which were sold to another group for less money.

I don’t believe that Carl Lindner will allow this team to be sold to someone from out of town. That’s why he didn’t allow Larry (?) Dolan from Cleveland to buy them. He’s rather have bad local ownership, than good ownershp that lives elsewhere.

Greenberg said three bids under consideration are so close that “at the end of the day, it will come down to who is considered to be the best caretaker for the team for the future.”

The three owners Greenberg represents – the Louise Nippert Trust; a division of the Gannett Co., whose newspaper properties include the Cincinnati Enquirer, and Cincinnati businessman George Strike – have not yet selected one of the three bidders, Greenberg said.

“Everyone has a point of view, but I think they’re beginning to coalesce in one direction,” Greenberg said.

Lindner’s 37 percent stake is the largest among the current owners and resulted in the others ceding him the title “CEO for life” and control of the team.

Greenburg said Lindner’s status has not hindered the sales process.

“I’ve been saying since the beginning that it’s not an impediment and that it’s only an impediment to those who want to make it an issue,” Greenberg said. “Mr. Lindner has been hugely cooperative in getting us to the point that we are today.”

Greenberg would not comment on whether Lindner has agreed to relinquish that title to guarantee that the new owners would have free rein to run the team without needing Lindner’s approval.

One insider said the issue about Lindner’s role with the team has been resolved so that a new owner wouldn’t feel that the Cincinnati billionaire is still in charge.

Another source said resolving the Lindner issue is critical for anyone who might be paying somewhere around $135 million for the majority stake.

“They’re not going to want to spend that kind of money if they don’t have the power to come in and buy a pack of pencils,” said a Reds insider who asked that his name not be used.

UPDATE More on the sale in today’s Enquirer.

I’ve been a Reds fan since the late ’60’s, with my luck of being able to attend plenty of games at Riverfront during the BRM era. I was sitting in the Green Seats in the OF when Pete came home in ’84 and was in the Red seats when Glenn Braggs reached over the fence in ’90 to beat the Pirates. I have had many favorites from Jim Maloney to Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Adam Dunn, and Jay Bruce.

About Bill Lack

I've been a Reds fan since the late '60's, with my luck of being able to attend plenty of games at Riverfront during the BRM era. I was sitting in the Green Seats in the OF when Pete came home in '84 and was in the Red seats when Glenn Braggs reached over the fence in '90 to beat the Pirates. I have had many favorites from Jim Maloney to Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Adam Dunn, and Jay Bruce.

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Reds - General