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01/09/12 12:00 PM EST
Padres' transfer to Moorad nearly finished
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Jeff Moorad is on the verge of completing his long-awaited purchase of the Padres, John Moores, the club's majority owner, told MLB.com.
The 100 percent sale of the franchise -- at an estimated $530 million -- that Moores has held since late 1995 is on the agenda for approval by the owners at this Thursday's first joint quarterly meeting of the year.
"It's 100 percent done," Moores said in a phone conversation. "I couldn't be more pleased. Jeff's remaining payment of all cash went into escrow in mid-December. I remain impressed that Jeff has done everything he said he would do."
Moorad and his group of partners had previously made two payments and were in possession of 49 percent of the franchise. The owners hadn't previously voted on Moorad's minority interest, but since control of the club is now being passed to him from Moores, Major League Baseball rules stipulate that the new majority ownership must be approved. He needs 75 percent of the 29 other owners or their representatives.
Moorad confirmed that all cash and signed documents are in escrow, but declined to comment in further detail, saying he was being respectful of MLB's process.
An MLB official also acknowledged that the issue is on the agenda. Moorad will become the fifth owner of the franchise that expanded into the National League along with the Montreal Expos in 1969.
Moores, who first sold a $100 million share to the Moorad group in March 2009, said his ownership of the club was largely a joyride, but that he wanted now to "escape quietly into that good night."
"Remember the scene in the movie 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' when they went to the ballgame?" Moores said, referring to the famous 1986 film that starred Matthew Broderick as Ferris. "Well, I had the kick of being Ferris Bueller for 17 years. And that's more than enough."
Under his stewardship, the Padres went to the playoffs four times, including advancing to the 1998 World Series, which the Yankees won in four games. But more important, his dogged stubbornness in winning a slew of lawsuits filed against the Padres by former San Diego City Councilman Bruce Henderson resulted in the construction and opening of downtown Petco Park in 2004. That, more than anything, will be his legacy.
Moores said he would continue to explore ownership opportunities in baseball and other sports. Earlier this past year, he dropped out of contention to purchase the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association, allowing an exclusive buying period to lapse after his due diligence on the team's finances.
"I just didn't know how it would work," said Moores, who has long coveted an NBA franchise. "For me to get back in, it would have to be the right venue."
Moorad increased his original 35 percent of the Padres to 49 percent in 2010. He originally brought in an ownership group of a dozen investors, including Troy Aikman, the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback from the Dallas Cowboys. According to his original deal with Moores, Moorad had as long as five years to purchase the club. The remaining $200-plus million is coming from his current group and doesn't include any new investors.
Moorad is also waiting for approval from MLB of a new regional sports network contract with FOX Sports that will bring the Padres' media-rights dollars more in line with other baseball franchises of comparable market size. That should be done by the start of the season.
A general partner of the D-backs and former player agent, Moorad replaced current Mets general manager Sandy Alderson as the team's chief executive in 2009 and has since been running the club. From Arizona, Moorad brought along with him Tom Garfinkel, who became the Padres' president and chief operating officer, and later added new general manager Josh Byrnes and assistant GM A.J. Hinch, who were dismissed by the D-backs in 2010. Byrnes was Arizona's GM and Hinch the manager at the time.
Moorad is in the process of rebranding the Padres and rebuilding confidence in the franchise among avid fans in the San Diego area. On the field he has met with mixed results during his first three seasons. After an 87-loss evaluation year in 2009, the Padres surprised most experts and were in first place in the NL West for most of the 2010 season, but barely missed the playoffs after winning 90 games. This past season, they slipped back to last place in the division with 91 losses.
The sale of the Padres comes shortly after the approval late last year of Jim Crane, who bought the Astros from Drayton McLane, and Larry Baer was approved to replace Bill Neukom as control person of the Giants. The Dodgers are also on the market and by agreement between MLB and current owner Frank McCourt are supposed to be sold by April 30.