SI Vault
 
A percentage player makes his pitch for K. C.
Ted O'Leary
January 08, 1968
That is how Ewing Kauffman, who succeeds with everything he touches, describes himself. If baseball does award him the new franchise, the days of travail for put-upon Kansas Citians may have ended at long last
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
January 08, 1968

A Percentage Player Makes His Pitch For K. C.

That is how Ewing Kauffman, who succeeds with everything he touches, describes himself. If baseball does award him the new franchise, the days of travail for put-upon Kansas Citians may have ended at long last

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

With the old Athletics gone to Oakland, the American League next week will award a new Kansas City franchise (to become operative in 1969) to one of four applicants.

If all goes according to plan—and almost everything in Ewing Kauffman's life always has—the franchise will go to a native son, Ewing Kauffman in fact. Kauffman, who is 51 and has remarkably luminous blue eyes, is a self-made multimillionaire and the kind of man who could breathe life into a bearskin rug. Such performances are rare in all of baseball these days, but nowhere more so than in Kansas City, where successive regimes of absentee landlords seemed more bent on taking their team's breath away. Kauffman's knack, by contrast, is success. Perhaps this is because, as Kauffman explains it, "I always try to move with the law of averages."

Ewing Marion Kauffman began exhibiting a penchant for laws of average when he was a student at Kansas City's Westport High. He decided to go out for football but was handicapped by the fact that he weighed only 122 pounds. "I saw I didn't have much of a chance," Kauffman recalls, "so I analyzed the situation. I found that center was the least popular position. I went out for center—and made it."

Kauffman also played right field on school and sandlot baseball teams until his interest in the game waned in favor of making a living. As a salesman for a drug concern, Kauffman was soon earning more in commissions than the company president drew in salary. "They shrank my territory and 1 still made more," says Kauffman. "It's wrong not to let a man enjoy the fruit of his efforts. So I quit and went into business for myself."

That was in 1950. Kauffman started making pills in his basement. The first year he grossed $36,000 and earned a profit of $1,100. Last year his Marion Laboratories, Inc., a pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor, grossed $10.5 million and showed a profit of $2 million after taxes. "I've applied one basic principle to my business," Kauffman explains. "Those who produce should share in the profits. Those who don't produce, don't stay. Every employee I have owns stock in Marion Laboratories. Twenty of the people associated with me have become millionaires. Our retirement plan is liberal. A typist who has been with us for 14 years will retire this year with $312,000 in benefits and hasn't had to contribute one cent to the retirement fund. My maintenance man has $100,000 in stock and $200,000 in credit in our retirement fund.

"I've set up trust funds for my three children," Kauffman says. "I've got $60 million and I'm going to enjoy it. I'm counting on baseball to provide one of the means of enjoying it. I'm not sure I'll get the franchise, but if I were the league owners I'd award it to me."

Even without a baseball team Kauffman has been finding life hugely enjoyable. He lives in a massive red-brick house that cost $200,000 when it was built in 1932 at Depression prices. Kauffman has added an Olympic-size outdoor swimming pool with a 10-foot diving board. The pool is heated and Kauffman swims and dives almost every night of the year. He has converted the former owner's indoor rifle range into a golf practice room where he can both drive and putt.

Of the interested parties who have applied for the new Kansas City franchise, Kauffman is the only one offering single ownership. To the December baseball meetings in Mexico City he took one letter of credit from a Kansas City bank for $4 million and another from a New York financial firm for $6 million. The cost of the franchise, including stocking it with players, is expected to be just under $6 million. The new owner will not share league television or radio fees until 1972 and he must make payments to the league pension fund.

Kauffman's first venture into sports ownership began in 1966 when he bought two race horses from Desi Arnaz. With his usual thoroughness, he hired an experienced Missourian, Randy Sechrest, as trainer and started a racing stable. He expected to lose money, which, from a tax standpoint, he did not find an unwelcome prospect. But in 21 months his stable, which now includes 24 horses, has won $357,000.

"If I get the ball team," says Kauffman, "I'll do what I did with the stable, hire professionals and turn the operation over to them. I'll lay down the financial policy. The baseball end I'll leave to baseball men."

Continue Story
1 2