Jackson's group offered $25M more than accepted offer

SAN FRANCISCO -- Reggie Jackson is frustrated that his offer to buy the Oakland Athletics was not accepted even though his group was willing to pay $25 million more than Los Angeles real estate developer Lewis Wolff for the franchise.

"I'm still disappointed. I'm still hung over from it emotionally," Jackson said in a phone interview Thursday night. "I started my career in Oakland, I still own a home there, they just retired my number this past season. It's a special place."

Jackson, who said this was his "fourth or fifth" time trying to buy a team, said his group of four investors began discussions last spring with the commissioner's office about buying the A's. But by the time they were given the chance to make an offer in December, it was too late.

A's co-owner Steve Schott said that the bid came after he and partner Ken Hofmann already had an agreement to sell the team to Wolff, the team's vice president for venue development.

"Reggie told me he'd buy the team for $25 million more. But I don't go chasing the last dollar," Schott said. "I have an obligation to the contract."

The deal with Wolff, which has been reported to be for about $175 million, is on track to be approved by Opening Day. It will be finalized once the team's lease at the Coliseum is transferred and baseball's owners approve the purchase.

"There will be no hurdles to the transfer," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

That leaves Jackson out. Jackson, who began his Hall of Fame career with the A's and won three World Series titles and an MVP with the team, held frequent talks with commissioner Bud Selig and DuPuy beginning early last year about his desire to get involved with ownership.

"Oakland was a perfect fit," said Brian Shapiro, one of Jackson's three partners who tried to buy the team. "He would have been the best owner baseball ever saw. He would be the first guy who had ever done it on the field and done it on a higher level."

Angels owner Arte Moreno is the only minority to have a controlling stake in a major-league team.

Jackson said he was used to missing because he "struck out more than anyone who ever played" but was concerned about how long he can keep his investors on board.

"I'm disappointed for obvious reasons. I would have been an owner," Jackson said. "I can't write that kind of check. I'm not sure how long I can keep a billionaire warm. These guys are loyal and socially concerned. They are the right people."

DuPuy said he's trying to set up another meeting with Jackson and Selig and is hopeful Jackson can get involved with an ownership group.

"I told Reggie that the commissioner and I are both very supportive of his efforts to become an owner and to get into the game," DuPuy said. "The panache he carries as one of the great superstars and Hall of Famers ... would be a real plus."

Jackson, who sometimes clashed as a player with controversial owners George Steinbrenner in New York and Charlie Finley in Oakland, said he has learned a lot from Steinbrenner and would put money back into the team to make sure it could be competitive.

Wolff met last month with baseball's ownership committee. Any sale agreement must be approved by at least three-quarters of the 30 major-league teams, and Schott said he expected that to be done by conference call in late March or the first week of April.

"I can't foresee any problems," Schott said. "Lew has interviewed with the ownership committee and they felt good about him. When they take the vote, I can't see any problems."

Schott said Wolff and the commissioner's office would like him to stay on in some role and that he would like to be an adviser.

Schott and Ken Hofmann bought the A's jointly in 1995 with Schott serving as the managing partner. The A's made the postseason four straight years before finishing a game behind Anaheim in the AL West last season.

"It's been a long run -- nine years," Schott said. "The start was pretty rough but the last five years have been pretty good."

In other news, DuPuy said baseball was trying to arrange to play regular-season games in Europe next year, with Italy and Greece the leading contenders. Also, he said negotiations were ongoing with international federations and the union about finalizing details for a World Cup to be played next March.

DuPuy said spring training might have to start early to accommodate a World Cup and that players would not be obligated to participate.