Report: Brewers sold for $180 million

Updated: September 29, 2004, 4:57 PM ET
SportsTicker

MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Brewers reportedly have orally accepted an offer from Los Angeles investor Mark L. Attanasio to buy the franchise for more than $180 million.

On Monday, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, citing unidentified sources, reported that the team's board of directors decided to accept Attanasio's offer at a meeting last Thursday. The Brewers are currently owned by the family of baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

The report said the price was between $180 million and $200 million. The Anaheim Angels, playing in a larger metropolitan area, sold for $182 million last year.

The deal requires approval from 29 other owners but is expected to be finalized before next season. The report said any sale of the club would also include 30 percent of Miller Park, a 42,000-seat facility that opened in 2001. The team's lease with Miller Park runs through 2030.

Attanasio, 46, a senior partner with Los Angeles money management firm Trust Company of the West, is a lifelong fan of baseball who grew up in the vicinity of Yankee Stadium in New York.

His bid was selected by the board over bids from Quicken Loans chairman Daniel Gilbert of Detroit and New York attorney Miles Prentice. On Monday, mlb.com ran a portion of a statement from Gilbert which said he was "deeply disappointed that the Brewers have chosen another direction in the sale of the club."

Baseball president and CEO Bob DuPuy declined to talk specifically about the deal but said the Brewers were a franchise on the rise thanks to the wider success of baseball in the 2004 season.

"We are close to an all-time attendance record," DuPuy told the newspaper. "Our ratings have remained stable or have gone up in the face of increasing competition. We have labor peace, and there is enthusiasm about Miller Park.

"Plus, the Brewers have what is generally thought to be one of the top farm systems in Major League Baseball, and at least for the first half of the season, they did a good job on the field."

With a roster comprised of mostly young, inexpensive players, the Brewers were a surprising 45-41 at the All-Star break. Although the team has slumped to a 19-50 record since, it has drawn 2,062,382 fans this year - above the 2 million threshold needed to turn a profit, the report said.

However, what Attanasio also gets is a perennial loser with a shrinking fan base whose front office was shuffled less than a year ago. Ulice Payne Jr. - who became the first black team president in baseball history in September 2002 - resigned just over a year later after publicly criticizing the team's decision to slice player payroll.

The Brewers have clinched their 12th straight losing season. The report said their season-ticket fan base is approximately 7,000, the lowest it has been since 1995.

Part of the team's mission statement says the "Brewers are committed to fielding a competitive team both on and off the field" and also refers to the team as "a fiscally responsible organization."

According to the report, the Brewers had an outstanding debt of $133.2 million at the end of 2003. Most of the sale price would go toward erasing that debt.

The franchise began as the Seattle Pilots in 1969 but was bought by Selig in bankruptcy proceedings a year later and moved to Milwaukee before the 1970 season. The Brewers, who reached the World Series in 1982, moved from the American League to the National League after the 1997 season.

Selig's ownership stake of nearly 28 percent is held in a trust. At a sale price of $180 million, he would receive just over $13 million - approximately the same amount of his own money Selig has put into the team over the years.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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