Breaking news: An ownership group led by local businessman Robert Castellini is expected to buy a majority stake in the Cincinnati Reds and will likely assume operating control of the team, sources said today.
Castellini group expected to buy majority stake in Reds
By Cliff Peale, John Erardi and John Fay
Enquirer staff writers
An ownership group led by local businessman Robert Castellini is expected to buy a majority stake in the Cincinnati Reds and will likely assume operating control of the team, sources said today.
The team is expected to issue a press release at 4 p.m.
Under terms of the agreement, it’s believed that Reds owner Carl Lindner will give up control of the team.
Castellini, 64, is the president of Castellini Co., a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, and has ties to baseball. He is part of the St. Louis Cardinals’ ownership group headed by Cincinnatian Bill DeWitt, who is that team’s chairman. Castellini and DeWitt previously invested in the Baltimore Orioles.
Sources say brothers Thomas L. and W. Joseph Williams are in Castellini’s ownership group. Tom Williams is the president of North American Properties, which is headquartered in Cincinnati. Joseph Williams is the chairman.
North American Properties has offices in Atlanta, Dallas, Ft. Myers and Minneapolis.
It was started in 1954 by William J. Williams, who owned the Reds with his brother James from 1980-84.
Three minority owners of the team put shares totalling 51.5 percent up for sale on March 8. That consortium included the Louise Dieterle Nippert Trust, local investor George Strike, and a subsidiary of Gannett Co., which owns The Enquirer.
Although more than 50 percent of the team went up for sale, owner Carl Lindner is “CEO for life” of the Reds, per his ownership agreement. Lindner owns 37.5 percent of the club.
Lindner has first right to match any offer for the shares on sale, along with William Reik, an investment manager in New York who controls about 11 percent of the team. A source today said Reik will retain that percentage of ownership in the team. It’s not known whether Lindner will keep his share of the team.
Assuming an agreement is reached with the Castellini group and a contract is signed, the next step in the deal requires approval by Major League Baseball owners.
While the sale would end the mystery of who controls the Reds, only time will tell the answer to this question: How much money will the new owners spend on the Reds, and what is the status of chief operating officer John Allen, general manager Dan O’Brien, and manager Jerry Narron.
O’Brien and Narron each have one year remaining on their contracts.
In 2005, the Reds’ payroll was just under $62 million. Although that represented a $16 million increase over 2004’s payroll, the returns were modest. The team finished 73-89, good for fifth place in the six-team National Central League Division. Cincinnati has not had a winning season since 2000. It’s the longest losing streak since the team endured 11 straight losing seasons, from 1945-55.
By way of comparison, the New York Yankees’ payroll last year was the highest in the league at $208,306,817. The World Champion Chicago White Sox’s payroll was just over $75 million.
Tom Williams became president of North American Properties in 1991. He was a lawyer at the law firm of Frost & Jacobs, has a bachelor of arts degree from Georgetown University, and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati.
Joe Williams has a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University. The brothers were also part of the Cardinals ownership group.