Work in Sports
Baseball rejects Prentice's bid for Royals
Posted: Thursday November 11, 1999 10:16 AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Time may be running out for baseball in Kansas City.
If an acceptable owner for the Royals isn't found by Jan. 1, 2002, the team must be sold to the highest bidder without regard to where the franchise will operate.
On Wednesday, after months of leaking to the media, baseball officially advised Miles Prentice and the Royals that his group's $75 million bid had been rejected.
"I feel very bad for Miles Prentice and his entire family," Royals president Mike Herman said. "We're going to have to reopen the process."
Baseball owners voted 29-1 in September to table the bid, saying they wanted the team to pursue other alternatives.
Herman said no reason for the rejection was given.
"I wish you guys would ask Major League Baseball," Herman told reporters. "We wish you would ask for us."
On Tuesday, Prentice asked the Royals to ask the commissioner's office for specific objections.
Robert DuPuy, baseball's chief legal officer, responded with a letter to the Royals late Wednesday.
"I spoke with Mr. Prentice this afternoon," DuPuy said, "and told him that based on the opinions of the ownership committee and the commissioner, he would not be approved as the control person, that we appreciate his efforts and his enthusiasm for the Royals and baseball, and that I was sending a letter to the board advising them of that."
Prentice, a New York lawyer who also tried to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers, had purchased a home in Kansas City with the hope he would take over the team. He had put together a group of more than 40 investors, including golfer Tom Watson and some of the most prominent families in Kansas City.
"Baseball did this to us," said former Negro leagues star Buck O'Neil, part of Prentice's group. "They knew months ago they weren't going to let us have this team. Why wouldn't they tell us then?"
Prentice spokesman Michael Grimaldi said the decision "appears to have far more to do with politics and power than anything else."
"Miles Prentice was a populist owner," Grimaldi said. "He wanted to own this team as a representative of the fans. Major league baseball clearly was uncomfortable with this position."
The Royals said the sale process will be reopened and will continue to be managed by J.P. Morgan, a New York investment banking firm.
"The Royals board would like to extend our appreciation and admiration to Miles and his investor group for how they have handled themselves throughout this difficult process," Herman said. "They made a substantial offer for the ballclub and worked well with the board."
Prentice did not attend the news conference Wednesday night. The minimum purchase price for the team will remain at $75 million and the investment group will have to have at least $100 million, Herman said.
"We advised the board that we look forward to continuing to work with them to speedily find a way to keep baseball in Kansas City, which is a primary objective," DuPuy said.
Commissioner Bud Selig declined comment, referring the matter to DuPuy.
"Now that Major League Baseball has made a decision," Herman added, "we need to reopen the process and continue towards our objective which is to insure that our team stays in Kansas City and we get the maximum value for charity."
Before his death in 1993, founding owner Ewing Kauffman directed that the team be sold to a buyer who would promise to keep it in Kansas City, and that money from the sale be used to fund charities in the Kansas City area.
Kauffman's succession plan contained a six-year period to find an owner who would keep the team in Kansas City. That runs out Jan. 1, 2002.
Royals chairman David Glass, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Inc., was Kauffman's hand-picked successor but he bowed out two years ago when former Royals star George Brett began talking about putting together a group to make an offer.
Brett subsequently bowed out as did Lamar Hunt, owner of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, who had made a relatively half-hearted bid. There has been speculation that Glass, who could not be reached Wednesday night, may reconsider making an offer.
"It's time to move the process forward again," Herman said. "We felt an obligation to Miles and his group to see his bid through to approval or rejection."
The announcement came a day after Royals outfielder Carlos Beltran's near-unanimous selection as American League Rookie of the Year.
"There's nothing wrong with baseball in Kansas City," Herman said. "The problem is in finding a buyer who's acceptable to the ownership committee and to the commissioner."