- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Former agent Jeff Moorad was introduced as CEO and vice chairman of the San Diego Padres on Thursday, and confirmed that former NFL star Troy Aikman is a limited partner in his ownership group.

Several other businessmen are involved in Moorad’s group, which took control of approximately 35 percent of the club from John Moores when papers were signed on Wednesday. Moorad’s group expects to own 100 percent within five years in a deal that could top out at around $500 million.

Moorad resigned in January as a general partner and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks to pursue the purchase of the Padres, who lost 99 games in 2008, their worst finish in 15 seasons. He said he owns 40 percent of the equity in his group of 12 partners.

Moorad has been a partner with Aikman, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in a NASCAR venture.

“Troy Aikman, many of you may remember, has three fingers taken up on his hands with Super Bowl rings,” Moorad said. “A dear friend, glad to have him part of the group.”

Moorad once was a formidable agent whose baseball client list included Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez and Shawn Green. He also partnered with Leigh Steinberg in representing Aikman, Steve Young and Warren Moon among other NFL stars.

Several local businessmen also are involved in the group. Moorad said he wanted to make sure the group didn’t become too unwieldy. In the early 1990s, the Padres were owned by the so-called “Gang of 15” headed by TV producer Tom Werner, which presided over a purge of most of the team’s stars.

“Really, by design, we put together a group of friends and acquaintances who share both a passion for baseball and a passion for business,” Moorad said during a news conference at home plate at Petco Park.

Moores, who looked melancholy sitting next to Moorad, said approximately $100 million has changed hands so far.

The somewhat unusual deal _ precipitated by Moores’ difficult divorce from wife Becky _ is structured so Moorad’s group can gain complete control during a period of up to five years, subject to approval by Major League Baseball.

“The structure is modeled after the NFL structure,” Moorad said. “It’s a path to control. We haven’t seen a lot of structures like this in baseball, but reality is, in these challenging economic times and given both parties’ respective priorities here, this structure made sense for everyone involved.”

Moores, who remains chairman, is essentially financing the deal.

“I think it’s a bit unusual. In fact, I think it’s more than a bit unusual,” Moores said after the news conference. “These are bizarre times. The state is in pretty awful financial shape, and nationally it’s terrible. There is no financing for almost anything. I think you can go out and finance a car, but it’s hard to get financing on anything above that. That required the sale of the club have a little different character or it frankly wouldn’t have happened.”

Moores said the structured sale can be accelerated or slowed down.

“We’re clearly down the path where Jeff will become the MLB control person,” Moores said.

Moores said he will continue to have a role in issues at the MLB level.

And, he joked, “Periodically, Jeff may need some of my baseball brilliance to help him, and I’m confident he’ll pick up the phone to ask.”

Under Moores’ ownership, the Padres won four NL West titles and reached the 1998 World Series before being swept by the New York Yankees.

“I feel very good about Jeff,” Moores said. “I like the idea of an owner-CEO. I think that’s frankly an unfair advantage, and if I were similarly situated somewhere in another city, I would not be happy, because Jeff’s going to have his own money at work and he doesn’t look like a guy who’s going to waste money. He’s going to run this organization like it’s his, because it will be. He’s not going to sign people to long-term contracts. You’re not going to see the 38-year-old ballplayer with a seven-year contract. It’s just not going to happen.”

Moorad said his goal is to compete with a payroll of $70 million to $80 million.

“I think the fan base can support it, and to the extent that they do, that’s certainly what we’ll do,” he said.

Moorad also said he told his partners not to expect an annual profit.

With Moorad assuming the CEO role, Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the club is over. Both Moores and Moorad praised Alderson’s work, particularly in opening a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.

Alderson, a former president and general manager with the Oakland Athletics, declined comment when reached via e-mail.

Other limited partners confirmed by Moorad are Alfred B. Baldwin, Richard Barry, Dan and Denise Costa, Patrick and Joanne Graham, John M. McEvoy, Robert M. Piccinini, Jay D. Stein, Wayne T. Seltzer and Tom Davin.

“I said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a jewel of a franchise,” Moorad said.

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