MLB owners delay approval of Padres sale
Clarification sought before approval of majority stake to Moorad
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Approval of Jeff Moorad's purchase of the Padres was tabled on Thursday as owners asked for clarification on several outstanding financial issues, Commissioner Bud Selig said."There were a lot of economic concerns," Selig said after completion of the first quarterly ownership meeting of the year. "The most important thing we do is bringing in new owners, so we have really become very fastidious about whether people can [financially] make it. I'm not suggesting there's anything negative. There were just questions that we didn't have time to answer here. But that's where we are and we're going to do that as expeditiously as possible." The 100 percent sale of the franchise -- at an estimated $530 million -- that Padres chairman John Moores has owned since late 1995 was pulled from the agenda midway through the meeting because Moorad couldn't immediately generate answers to the questions posed to him through the ownership committee and executive council. Moorad received word of the issues on Wednesday night and met with Major League Baseball officials at least six times trying to reach clarification. The last caucus came on the veranda about an hour into the owners' session and included Moorad, Moores, Selig, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations and human resources. At the end of that meeting, approval of the deal was pulled off the agenda. Moorad, a former player agent, was previously a general partner and president of the D-backs before buying into the Padres before the 2009 season. His group of partners has already made two payments to Moores and is 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 would be passed to Moorad from Moores, MLB rules stipulate that the new majority ownership must be approved. Moorad needs votes from 75 percent of the 29 other owners, or their representatives. Moorad had a five-year deal to purchase the team in its entirety, but with the urging of Moores, stepped up that process by more than two years. Moorad had previously confirmed that he was poised to make an all-cash transaction. That cash and signed documents were already in escrow. Neither Selig nor Moorad would disclose what the financial issues entail. "We support this process and are very proud to be part of the process," Moorad said. "I look forward to answering some technical questions and moving it along. We got word that there were these questions and we tried to answer them this morning. But it wasn't possible to work that quickly. I told them I was happy to defer and take it up at a more appropriate time." Moorad increased his original 35 percent ownership 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. 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 value of Padres media rights more in line with other comparable size baseball markets. That should be done by the start of the season and won't be hindered by the ownership delay, Moorad said. This is the second time in the past three owners' meetings that the sale of an MLB club has been pulled from the agenda prior to it moving forward for approval. In August at Cooperstown, N.Y., Jim Crane's proposed purchase of the Astros from Drayton McLane was tabled so that MLB could gather more information about the group Crane assembled to execute the deal. It was placed back on the agenda and passed unanimously in November in Milwaukee after Crane agreed to move the Astros from the National League Central to the American League West effective with the 2013 season. Selig said he envisioned the Moorad purchase to be quickly concluded and approval could be accomplished via conference call rather than have it wait for the next owners' meetings in May in New York. "I've already told our guys to meet with them and develop answers and they'll come back to us," Selig said. "I use the word expeditiously because I promised [Moorad and Moores] that, too. These things are far more complicated than people understand."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.