Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy said last night the sport hopes to select a new owner for the Washington Nationals within a month and complete the sale to one of eight bidding groups by the end of the World Series in October.
"The commissioner remains committed to getting this done in 30 days," DuPuy told reporters gathered at the owners' quarterly meeting in Pasadena, Calif. "We really would like to have the ownership in place by the end of the season."
That time line appears to be slightly revised from previous goals. MLB commissioner Bud Selig has said more than once recently that he plans to select the Nationals' new owner by the end of the month, a target that appears to have been pushed back by perhaps two weeks. Selig all along has hoped to hand over full control of the club from the sport's 29 other owners by the end of the World Series.
MLB has not whittled down the eight competing groups into finalists, nor does it appear likely to do so. The league plans to set a sale price in the coming weeks -- perhaps as high as $450million -- and then see how many bidders remain.
"I'm not going to comment on prices," said DuPuy, who insisted no sale price has been established yet.
Baseball's owners, who stand to make a hefty profit on the sale, bought the Montreal Expos in 2002 for $120million.
One of the owners' top objectives at this week's meeting, according to league sources, is to establish a firm sale price and the process by which the Nationals will be sold. MLB's ownership committee, which includes DuPuy and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, wants to pin Selig down on both counts so it can move forward.
As the much-anticipated sale of the club inches closer, the potential for on-field distractions grows. Manager Frank Robinson said yesterday he worries that some of his players -- especially those seeking long-term contracts -- could become preoccupied with the ongoing process.
Sure enough, outfielder Jose Guillen motioned to reporters before last night's game in Philadelphia and asked, "What's going on with the new owners?"
The eight groups competing for the Nationals include: Fred Malek and Jeffrey Zients' Washington Baseball Club; the group led by Sallie Mae chairman Albert Lord and Virginia businessman Bill Collins; Washington entrepreneur Jonathan Ledecky; the Lerner family, local developers; Tennessee businessman Franklin Haney; former Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten; Indianapolis communications executive Jeffrey Smulyan; and the tandem of California businessman Ronald Burkle and Chicago distributor Yusef Jackson.
Staff writer Ken Wright and the Associated Press contributed to this article.