OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics got two more new
owners on Friday: general manager Billy Beane and team president
Lewis Wolff was introduced as the new managing partner of the
A's at a small ceremony in the Coliseum and then announced that
Beane and Crowley will have small ownership stakes in the club. It
was a reward for the two men who have built the small-market team
into a perennial playoff contender and a profitable business.
Beane also received a lucrative contract extension through 2012,
while Crowley's deal was extended through 2008, although their
salaries weren't disclosed.
"I'm excited about the future, and one of the great things now
is the stability it brings," said Beane, who has led the club to
four playoff appearances and the AL's second-best record during his
seven years as GM. "(Ownership) is something I always hoped would
become a possibility. ... We're partners, so Lew has said that when
it comes to operating the franchise, he's going to give us a free
Wolff, a Los Angeles real-estate mogul, and his partners,
including The Gap heir John Fisher, formally took control of the
A's this week from a group led by Steve Schott, who will remain as
a minority owner. Beane is believed to be the only GM in baseball
with an ownership stake in his team.
Although the A's play in a dilapidated stadium in a crowded
market, Wolff knows that Oakland's leadership is perhaps the club's
biggest asset. He quickly took steps to make sure Beane and Crowley
will stay with the A's.
"I think the fans should relax a little bit," Wolff said. "We
wanted to prove to everybody that our interest is in the long
Wolff has been a consultant on the A's drive for a new stadium
since 2003, and he has been impressed with their organizational
structure. After reviewing the A's accounting practices and
budgets, he joked that he planned to change all of his businesses
to look more like his new baseball team.
Fisher, the reclusive billionaire who's putting up most of the
money for the estimated $180 million purchase, didn't attend the
news conference. With Wolff, Fisher and Schott, the A's now have
the third-richest ownership group in baseball.
But that wealth probably won't change much about the A's
finances until the club gets a new stadium. Beane and Crowley plan
to keep themselves on a fairly strict budget, although Beane
acknowledged a bit more flexibility than in the past.
"Until we've assured ourselves of greater revenues, we're going
to have to continue to manage as we have in the past," Beane said.
"There may be one player or one independent decision where it
makes a change. Are we going to radically change? No. Are there
some things that may change? Yes."
Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Johnny Damon, Jason Isringhausen,
Keith Foulke, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder are among the A's stars
who have left town because the club couldn't pay what they were
worth. Beane has kept a winning team in Oakland with a remarkable
farm system and his own revolutionary methods of scouting and
Beane occasionally has been frustrated by the A's limitations,
and he flirted with a move to Boston two seasons ago. But when
Wolff's interest in buying the team emerged over the last two
years, Beane knew better times were ahead.
"One of the reasons I know I stayed is the personal involvement
of Lew," Beane said.
Wolff and his partners plan to spend "most of the next 12
months" looking at possible sites for a stadium and working on a
financial plan. The owner declined to divulge specifics, but he has
previously said the team is thinking about building a new
baseball-only stadium in the Coliseum parking lot.
Wolff is still examining every option for financing the new
stadium, which the A's say they need to generate enough revenue to
compete with other clubs. Oakland governments haven't been
receptive to most ideas on taxpayer contributions -- but many
business leaders in the San Jose area, just 30 miles south, are
keen on attracting the A's, while Las Vegas and Portland also would
love to woo the team.
For now, Wolff is focused on getting a deal in Oakland while
Beane keeps a winning team on the field.
"I think we're inheriting a terrific base that we can build
on," Wolff said. "I don't see any changes, personally."