Billionaire Cardinals owner says he's no cheapskate
Posted: Tuesday June 5, 2007 12:10PM; Updated: Tuesday June 5, 2007 12:33PM
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Bill DeWitt Jr. called not too long ago. It isn't often that a billionaire calls. But then again when you write a thousand words on what a cheapskate a man is, you have to expect a phone call.
I'll say this about DeWitt, the Cardinals owner: He seems like a lovely fellow. DeWitt also scored big points when he told me how much he admired my work. I suspect he might have been fibbing about that, but that's OK. Even if it was baloney, it's always nice to hear.
DeWitt seems very personable and fairly down-to-earth for such a rich guy (as much as you could tell on a half-hour call). He is also extremely smart (no surprise there) and knowledgeable. He not only knew what his players make but what their strengths and weakness are, which differentiates him from a lot of owners.
But after the niceties, DeWitt had his point to make: He is not cheap.
As for whether he is stingy, that's still an open question. I'm not going to say he is, flat out, not after he flattered me. But it's certainly something to think about.
Here is a review of our conversation, with my original take from my May 10 column, followed by his points paraphrased, followed by my final verdict (I get to have the first and last word; while he's the one with the billion dollars, it's still my column). By category, blow by blow with the billionaire:
My take: Coming off a year in which the Cardinals won the World Series, and made millions, they should have spent a lot more.
DeWitt's point: DeWitt said the Cardinals' payroll went from $96 million to $100 million, and that they annually "push the envelope'' on payroll. Because of lower local TV revenues than New York, Boston or L.A., "we're not in position to have a payroll they have," DeWitt said.
The Verdict: That still isn't enough. Among his division competitors, the Brewers imported the Cardinals' postseason hero, Jeff Suppan, the Astros bought Carlos Lee for $100 million and the Cubs spent enough to build another Sears Tower.
2) Franchise value
My take: The Cardinals are worth many times the initial investment of DeWitt and his partners, who paid $150 million for the team and parking facility but sold the parking structure for $90 million, making their outlay a ridiculously light $60 million.
DeWitt's point: DeWitt didn't really refute that they're way ahead of the game in terms of franchise value.
The Verdict: I can only conclude that Forbes' $462 million guesstimate as the franchise value is either about right, or if anything, perhaps a tad light.
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