Talk of a move or outright sale has again become the subject around the Oakland Athletics baseball franchise.
Team owners and officials spent last week denying reports that the team had been sold to a group of entertainment moguls. However, the carefully worded denials only seemed to fuel speculation that if the franchise has not already been sold, owners at least are in talks with the Las Vegas-based investor group.
“To report any type of deal has been reached with a prospective outside ownership group or the sale of the A’s franchise is imminent is totally inaccurate,” according to a statement issued by the team on behalf of owners Steve Schott and Ken Hofman. Those statements were reported in the Oakland Press Democrat.
No initial indication was made whether the suitors want to move the team, which has struggled financially for years because of sagging attendance and a low-revenue ballpark.
At one point, the A’s reportedly were among the teams Major League Baseball was considering disbanding under a radical proposal to eliminate marginal franchises.
“If anything formal were to occur in regards to a change within the ownership group, the public would be informed in the appropriate manner,” the owners’ statement said.
The owners called the newspaper and television reports of a sale “inaccurate and presumptuous.”
Mandalay Sports Entertainment, the supposed buyer, is headed by moviemakers Peter Guber and Paul Schaeffer. They already own four minor league teams, including the Las Vegas 51s, a Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Guber and Schaeffer led a group that considered buying the A’s in 1999, but pulled out when they could not find a Bay Area partner.
According to a Las Vegas Review Journal report, Guber had no comment about the latest A’s rumors.
The furor was sparked by Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who said he learned from a “reliable source” within the A’s organization that “a deal was made during the weekend and the A’s were sold to an investment team from Las Vegas.
The A’s statement repeated the team’s stance on relocation.
“Mr. Schott and Mr. Hofmann remain steadfast in their commitment to the long-term future of the Athletics franchise in the Bay Area.”
A day before the story broke of the rumored sale, Schott told the San Francisco Chronicle that he doesn’t plan to sell the team to anyone who wants to move it out of the Bay Area.
“We get offers from time to time and we look at them, but they’ve always been from people who want to move the franchise to Portland, Washington D.C., or Northern Virginia or Las Vegas, and we’ve never wanted to do that,” Schott said.
A’s spokesman Jim Young acknowledged that the A’s are approached by interested buyers.
“This team is not on the open market, but it’s not unusual for our ownership to receive inquiries,” Young said.
The Guber group reportedly offered the A’s from $150 to $200 million, at least double what Schott and Hofmann paid for the club in 1995.
Major League Baseball owners must approve a sale. Richard Levin, vice president of public relations for Major League Baseball in New York, said no request has come through the commissioner’s office regarding a sale of the A’s.
Schott and Hofman bought the team from the Haas family in 1995 for a reported $72 million. The new owners’ relationship with the city of Oakland deteriorated when City Hall authorized a remodeling of the Coliseum to accommodate the return of the NFL’s Raiders.
The A’s are the defending AL West Division champs.