Thursday, April 27, 2006

Major League Baseball officials yesterday said they are still reviewing information about groups bidding to own the Washington Nationals, and that no decision has been made.

Several sources close to the selection process told The Washington Times that baseball commissioner Bud Selig has yet to make up his mind, because the competing groups are so well-qualified.

“I really do think he’s still struggling with it,” said one source close to the selection process.

MLB denied a report by WUSA Channel 9 that claimed Selig had chosen a group led by the family of local real estate mogul Ted Lerner, and that an announcement could come as soon as tomorrow.

“No decision has been made to date,” MLB president Bob DuPuy said. “The commissioner and I continue to meet with representatives of the groups and there will be an official announcement when the decision is made.”

The WUSA story also immediately prompted harsh denials from Nationals officials, as well as sources close to bidding groups, who said they have not been informed of a selection. Six sources told The Times that no decision on ownership has been made, but that the Lerners were being given strong consideration.

Aside from the Lerners, other groups still being reviewed include a team led by local businessmen Fred Malek and Jeffrey Zients and a group led by Jeff Smulyan, a communications executive from Indianapolis. The Lerner group also includes Stan Kasten, a former Atlanta Braves executive.

Smulyan, whom WUSA cited as one source for the story, denied telling the station that the Lerners had been selected, calling the story “absolutely untrue.”

Selig met with Malek, Zients and other members of the group at his offices in Milwaukee on Tuesday. DuPuy met with members of the Lerner group on Monday in D.C.

Both meetings were scheduled to introduce new minority investors in the groups.

A source with knowledge of the process said that while a decision could come at any time, it is unlikely Selig would choose an owner so soon after meeting with the Malek/Zients group.

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