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01/02/09 10:33 PM EST
Moorad sets sights squarely on Padres
Resignation as D-backs CEO helps pave way to ownership of Friars
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Jeff Moorad resigned as chief executive officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday to pursue his purchase of the San Diego Padres. Moorad will be replaced immediately as chief executive by Derrick Hall, the Diamondbacks' president. Moorad said that it had reached the point in negotiations with the Padres when he could no longer act in his day-to-day role with the Diamondbacks. "An exclusive window of negotiations with the Padres opened today," Moorad said during a conference call Friday. "There's an agreement in principal that all parties are comfortable with. The transaction is one that should take place sometime in the next few months." Moorad remains one of the D-backs' five general partners and will have to divest himself of that piece of the franchise if he becomes part of the San Diego ownership group. He is the principal owner, holding about 20 percent. The Padres released a statement on Friday confirming that they have entered into exclusive negotiations to sell the team to a group led by Moorad, and said that any transaction that might result from such negotiations would likely be completed in the first quarter of 2009. Moorad said he expects to take a majority position with the Padres over time, and it is apparent Moores may remain in a controlling capacity until that happens. Moores declined to speculate about how long he would remain as part of the Padres ownership group, saying that he would address the matter at length after a pending meeting of the club's three-person executive committee. Moorad said that he expects Moores to remain. "For a period of years," Moorad said. "Beyond that, the deal's specifics will be forthcoming, but it's probably not appropriate to talk about it today." The status of the franchise has gotten considerable media attention in part because of divorce proceedings involving John and Becky Moores. They own 90 percent of the team, and Becky shares 50 percent of that asset. Their daughter, Jennifer, owns 5 percent and the other 5 percent is owned by Glenn Doshay, a San Diego businessman. Moorad said he expects to assemble a minority partnership as part of his new group. "I'm piecing together a select group of friends and others," Moorad told MLB.com in a phone interview. "It will include several individuals from the San Diego area." Though Moores and Moorad declined to speak about the cost of the transaction, this past April, Forbes Magazine valued the Padres at $385 million, 19th among the 30 Major League teams. Moorad, a former player agent, became part of the D-backs ownership group in August 2004, during the transition in which Jerry Colangelo sold his portion of the team. A year later, Moorad was approved as an owner by Major League Baseball with the stipulation that he was not positioned as the managing general partner in control of the decision-making apparatus of the franchise. Kendrick, who owns a 12-percent share, assumed that role and it has remained that way ever since. Kendrick said on Friday that any resistance to Moorad among the other 29 owners has dissipated since then. Most of it was hard feelings that developed after owners dealt with Moorad as an agent. "He's proven himself through the years with us," Kendrick said. "And I think Major League Baseball, through discussions I've had with them directly, would be comfortable now with Jeff assuming the control position with another club. And frankly, if I were to step down, I'd be happy for him to assume it here. He's proven himself as a very able executive. He's given us good leadership here, which I think baseball now sees." When Moorad joined the Diamondbacks, it was a franchise with a high annual debt on Chase Field and in financial disarray. But after raising millions of dollars by taking in a group of limited partners and paying down substantial deferred player-related debt, the D-backs now find themselves on much more sturdy financial footing than they faced nearly five years ago. Moores purchased the Padres prior to the 1995 season for about $80 million. He said he's invested $100 million in the team since then and has a sizeable debt service tied to the construction of PETCO Park at a cost of $457 million. The ballpark, after two years of court delays, opened in 2004 and the Padres assumed about $150 million of the construction cost in bonds that are being paid off annually. For varying reasons, the two franchises are similar. They must maintain modest player payrolls, but both have been successful recently in the National League West with the Padres winning the division in 2005 and 2006 and the D-backs doing it in 2007, that after winning the World Series in 2001. Moorad said he expects his experience in Arizona will aid him in San Diego, despite the slumping global economy. "In general I think sports teams will be challenged going forward, as all businesses will be in the short term," he said. "But I'm bullish on baseball. And I'm particularly bullish on baseball in Southern California. As we've shown in Arizona there are ways to not only survive, but to win even on a medium-sized market payroll."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.