And let us all hope it is a successful and illustrious one...
Thursday, January 19, 2006
New Reds era about to dawn
MLB owners expected to approve sale during meetings today
By Cliff Peale
Enquirer staff writer
Today marks a new beginning for baseball's oldest professional franchise.
Cincinnatians Bob Castellini and Tom and Joe Williams will take control of the Cincinnati Reds after Major League Baseball owners approve the sale of the team at their meetings today in Arizona.
Castellini, a Xavier University trustee, planned to return from the meetings today to attend Xavier's Crosstown Shootout battle with the University of Cincinnati at the Cintas Center tonight.
Friday afternoon he's to make his first public statements about the Reds in a 4 p.m. press conference at Great American Ball Park.
Castellini, who will serve as chief executive officer, and the other owners will face major challenges:
The team on the field. The Reds have posted five straight losing seasons. There are no indications there will be a major boost in payroll in 2006 that might bring in prominent players.
The club's top management. It's not expected that the new owners will make immediate changes, such as replacing or reassigning chief operating officer John Allen or general manager Dan O'Brien.
Media and marketing. Major changes could be forthcoming here. For example, the club already has hired former WLW-AM general sales manager Bill Reinberger as its director of corporate sales, and Castellini's son Phil is taking some of the marketing duties.
Approval at the meetings today is expected to be a formality. Owners will be occupied with more controversial matters, including MLB's sale of the Washington Nationals and plans for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Steve Greenberg, the New York investment banker who helped broker the Reds deal, said it could be "a two-minute presentation."
"This went very smoothly," Greenberg said. "Once they got in, Mr. Castellini and his partners knew exactly what they wanted to do."
The group led by Castellini and the Williams brothers control 75 percent of the stock in Cincinnati Reds LLC, worth about $120 million. The remainder is smaller units owned by former CEO Carl Lindner, Louise Nippert, Bill Reik and George Strike.
Castellini's group still could sell smaller units to other investors, so it is not known how much Castellini personally will own.
"I want to congratulate all of the new owners of the Reds," Lindner said Wednesday through a spokeswoman. "Many of them have been longtime friends and business associates. They are leaders in Cincinnati and love the Reds as I do and as our fans do.
"I am pleased, and have always felt it was very important, that the team's ownership remains in our community. The future prospects for the Reds are bright because the new managing owners - Bob, Tom and Joe - bring with them many years of baseball experience and a love of the game. Edyth and I look forward to attending a Reds World Series game real soon."
The sale started last March when three shareholders - Nippert, Strike and Gannett Co., owner of The Enquirer - announced they would put their combined 51.5 percent stake up for sale.
But Lindner did not commit to relinquishing his CEO role until last fall, when the Castellini group emerged.
Castellini and the Williams brothers formerly were minority owners of the St. Louis Cardinals. The principal owner in that group is Cincinnatian Bill DeWitt, whose father owned the Reds in the 1960s.