SAN DIEGO -- The third generation of the O'Malley family took over the sad-sack San Diego Padres on Wednesday, promising to run the club in the same first-class manner that Walter and Peter O'Malley once ran the Dodgers.
The new ownership group includes Peter O'Malley's sons, Kevin and Brian, and nephews Peter and Tom Seidler. It also includes San Diego businessman Ron Fowler, the executive chairman who has been designated as the team's control person.
"This is a special moment for us," Kevin O'Malley said at a news conference to announce the closing of the $800 million deal and introduce the new ownership group. "Our grandfather, Walter O'Malley, our father, Peter O'Malley, for close to 50 years ran a first-class baseball organization. We feel a great responsibility being here today to carry on that legacy. We have high expectations for a first-class product on and off the field and we look forward to working with the team here to make it happen."
Phil Mickelson has said he'll be involved in the group. Peter Seidler said that due to conflicting schedules and the closing of the deal, he hasn't had a chance to sit down with the golfer to finalize his involvement, but hopes to do so in the next few weeks. Seidler said there's one spot left in the ownership group and it's being held for Mickelson.
Mickelson is "very interested in this and hopes to get the deal done," the golfer's spokesman, T.R. Reinman, said Wednesday.
The O'Malley-Seidler-Fowler group takes over a Padres team that has largely struggled since being swept by the New York Yankees in the 1998 World Series. Many fans felt a sense of disconnect with John Moores, who had owned the team since December 1994 and had to put it up for sale due to a difficult divorce. Jeff Moorad's attempt to buy the team on a layaway plan fell apart earlier this year, forcing Moores to put the team back on the market.
Additionally, the Padres can't be seen in 42 percent of the homes in San Diego County due to a squabble between Fox Sports San Diego, which is in the first year of a $1.2 billion. 20-year deal to broadcast the club, and Time Warner and AT&T U-verse.
The late Walter O'Malley bought the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 and moved them to Los Angeles before the 1958 season.
Peter O'Malley eventually took over for his father and all told under the family's ownership, the Dodgers won six World Series and 13 NL championships before being sold in 1998.
By comparison, the Padres have played in two World Series and lost both, in 1984 and 1998. Now in their 44th season, the Padres have had only 13 winning seasons. They've had 15 seasons of 90-plus losses, including five seasons of 100 or more losses.
They've been better-known for their garish brown-and-yellow uniforms in the 1970s and '80s, Roseanne Barr screeching through the national anthem before a home game in 1990 and the fire sale of 1993, when they dumped every star except Tony Gwynn.
Among the other lowlights was the 1974 home opener, when new owner Ray Kroc, the McDonald's co-founder, grabbed the PA microphone and told the fans, "I have never seen such stupid ballplaying in my life." On Fan Appreciation Night in 1988, club president Chub Feeney flipped off two fans carrying a "Scrub Chub" banner. Feeney resigned the next day.
So here come the O'Malleys and Seidlers with their strong baseball pedigree. Additionally, Fowler's involvement brings a local connection that runs much deeper than most previous ownership groups.
Fowler is a wealthy beer and liquor distributor and civic leader who has lived in San Diego since 1974.
"I think we're very fortunate to have the O'Malley-Seidler family as the primary owners of the Padres," Fowler said. "The reputation of the O'Malley family in Los Angeles has been fantastic over many years. The energy that I think the sons and nephews of the O'Malley family is going to bring here is going to be very special for this community."
Kevin O'Malley and Tom Seidler have moved to San Diego. Tom Seidler runs the Visalia Rawhide, a Single-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He said that team will remain in the family.
"I've been really fortunate to go to work at a ballpark most of my life and have enjoyed and loved every minute of it," Tom Seidler said. "To continue it here at Petco Park, one of the best ballparks in the country, is really special. Like Kevin said, we've had a great sense of responsibility to do the right things as owners to support the management team and the staff."
Peter Seidler said Peter O'Malley will serve as a "sounding board and patriarch."
Kevin O'Malley said his father had minor surgery last week and was at home recovering.
Fowler said the new ownership group plans to "underpromise and overdeliver." He refused to divulge what the player payroll will be next season, but said it would increase.
He said the priorities are winning, fan experience and community involvement.
Fowler got emotional when he said that, as a 68-year-old, "I can't believe how damn lucky I am."
While Moores became a penny-pincher and Moorad was unable to convince people he had enough money to buy the club, Fowler said there's still money left over to try to improve the Padres, who began the day in fourth place in the NL West, 13 games behind the San Francisco Giants.
"Is there sufficient money left over to improve the product? Yes," he said. "This is an all-cash deal. We are not taking out any debt to do this. It's all equity. We are not going to be undercapitalized."
Fowler said there are two reasons why this ownership group is different.
"I've got probably a longer history in San Diego than the other people," Fowler said. "I think I understand what San Diego means to people. And I think the history of the O'Malley family is far different than anybody else. You look at these guys. These are young guys. They range in age from 51 down to mid-30s. They have been successful in their own right. From a business standpoint they've made their own money. It's their own money in it. It's not family money. I think they have baseball in their blood. It's in their DNA. Once you do that, you have a sense of what needs to be done. I'm going to give it a hard run for a number of years. I think I understand this community and I think we can make a difference here. That's why we're all in."
Fowler declined to divulge specific percentages other than to say that seven owners will control more than 80 percent of the team and be on an advisory board. The O'Malley-Seidler-Fowler group will control more than half of that group.
Hall of Famer Don Sutton, who pitched for the Dodgers from 1966 to 1980 and again in 1988, said he's pleased there are O'Malleys back in baseball.
"The family's always been passionate about the game of baseball," said Sutton, a broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves, who finished a three-game series at San Diego on Wednesday. "They have treated the history of baseball with respect. The kids that you have here grew up in the game. They grew up working. I think they've done everything at the ballpark except rotator cuff surgery. You're getting hard-working, class people who will give it their all. I think the San Diego Padres just won the lottery."