- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

The Virginia Baseball Club will meet tomorrow to discuss whether to bid on the Montreal Expos.

Bill Collins, who has led the 10-year effort to bring major league baseball to Northern Virginia, said yesterday his group will evaluate the risks and rewards involved in pursuing the Expos. Last week baseball decided to relocate the beleaguered franchise from Montreal to the District.

“[Making a bid] is under serious consideration,” Collins said.

Collins had put all his efforts — spending nearly $10million — behind bringing a franchise to Northern Virginia, which lost out to the District in baseball’s decision to relocate the Expos. The sale of the franchise is a separate step in the process, and though the Washington Baseball Club headed by Fred Malek has an exclusivity agreement with the District, baseball is not bound by that contract.

MLB will conduct an open bidding for the Expos — a franchise worth about $108million in Montreal but expected to go for as high as $300 million in Washington.

Industry sources said several MLB executives encouraged Collins to make a bid.

Collins said after baseball announced its decision last Wednesday, he left for a golf trip in Williamsburg for the next four days. “I came back on Monday, and that was the first day I really began to focus on this,” he said. “We are starting to put the information together to determine what the plan would be, looking at the D.C. financing plan and other information.

“I have spoken to the people who typically do the risk assessment analysis for me for businesses and companies that I get involved in,” Collins said. “They are looking at that right now. I need something from them for the meeting. They will have a draft completed.”

Initially, that risk assessment raised concerns about the political makeup of the city council and the mayor’s race in the District in two years, Collins said. Collins pitched building a ballpark near Dulles Airport, but his stadium financing plan failed to get the necessary financial backing for bond financing by one of his former investors, Gov. Mark Warner.

“They have told me that this project has more risk factors than any other you have considered,” Collins said.

Conversely, the District’s proposal to build a ballpark on the Anacostia waterfront is so attractive that it may be worth the perceived risk.

“A positive is the financing plan,” Collins said. “There is virtually no requirement on ownership in this deal.”

The tone of Collins’ remarks toward the District represents a marked changed from the last several years, during which he repeatedly criticized the city and its bid for the Expos.

If Collins does join in the bidding for the Expos, he will have company. In addition to the Malek group, Long Island real estate developer Mark Broxmeyer stated his intentions to bid for the franchise. A group called DSG Baseball out of Nashville, Tenn., led by Brian Saulsberry, a Howard University graduate and general partner of the DSG Investment Fund, also is interested.

Other possible bidders include a group led by former Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten; a group that includes Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson; Miles Prentice, a New York lawyer who failed in efforts to purchase the Kansas City Royals, the Boston Red Sox and just last week the Milwaukee Brewers; and Charles Dolan, chairman of Cablevision, the brother of Cleveland Indians owner Larry Dolan and one of the failed bidders for the Red Sox.

• Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this article.

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