Pirates clarify ownership structure; McClatchy remains

PITTSBURGH -- Robert Nutting will replace Kevin McClatchy as controlling owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

McClatchy, who headed the group that bought the team before the 1996 season, will remain in control of the team's day-to-day operations and report to Nutting, the club said Friday.

The change must be approved by major-league owners, who are scheduled to meet Jan. 17-18 in Phoenix.

Nutting, already the team's chairman of the board, is the son of Wheeling, W.Va., newspaper owner G. Ogden Nutting, one of the Pirates' primary investors under McClatchy.

"The change will provide absolute clarity regarding the ownership structure of the team," Robert Nutting said in an open letter to fans. "As chairman and control person for the organization, my role is to provide strategic leadership for the organization. As CEO, Kevin remains responsible for the day-to-day operations of the ballclub."

Pittsburgh went 67-95 last year. The Pirates have had 14 straight losing seasons, two shy of the record set by the Philadelphia Phillies from 1933-48.

McClatchy, a millionaire whose family built a newspaper chain starting with The Sacramento Bee, has had as many as 28 partners since his group bought the team for about $95 million when he was 32 years old.

As various investors have left, others have bought shares, allowing G. Ogden Nutting to raise his ownership share to at least 25 percent. McClatchy reportedly owns about 15 percent of the team.

Since McClatchy bought the Pirates, the team has struck a deal to use public and private funds to build PNC Park, widely regarded as one of baseball's best since it opened in 2001. But while attendance remains respectable and the Pirates have said they are profitable, the team has struggled on the field under McClatchy.

Robert Nutting said in his letter to the fans that McClatchy continues to have his support.

"The board and the partnership group are completely supportive of Kevin and his executive team," Nutting said, adding that McClatchy will remain CEO "as long as he desires."

But Nutting also said the team must focus on winning.

"Like you, I believe there is absolutely nothing more important than for our team to be able to win, not just for one year but on a consistent basis," Nutting said.

Pittsburgh has a nucleus of younger players, including 2004 NL Rookie of the Year Jason Bay and last season's NL batting champ, Freddy Sanchez. Pittsburgh's $43.4 million payroll last year was 28th among the 30 major-league teams, ahead of only Tampa Bay and Florida, giving general manager Dave Littlefield little opportunity for big moves.

Among the platers who filed for free agency last fall, Pittsburgh has signed just two, catcher Einar Diaz and shortstop Jose Hernandez, both to minor-league contracts.

"In order to consistently succeed on the field, it's critical that we spend our resources effectively while continuing to build our team from within," Nutting said. "This is the plan I firmly believe in. It is one that Dave was brought here to develop and execute, one that he and Kevin are accountable for, and one that I have confidence is working."