McClatchy steps away from Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Former Pirates managing general partner Kevin McClatchy has sold his remaining shares in the team, ending a 13-year relationship that began with the newspaper heir ensuring that the club remained in Pittsburgh.

McClatchy's spot on the five-man Pirates board of directors will not immediately be filled.

"This was a personal decision that I felt was best to make at this time," McClatchy said in a statement issued Wednesday by the Pirates. "I care deeply about this organization, the city of Pittsburgh and the people of this region. While I will no longer play a role with the club, I will always passionately support the team in any way that I can."

A native of Sacramento, McClatchy spent more than six months assembling the shareholders and cash necessary to buy the Pirates in February 1996, after local ownership could not be found and it appeared the money-losing team might be relocated.

Despite the lowest payroll in the majors, the Pirates made a surprise run for the NL Central title a season later, finishing in second place, but they have not contended since. McClatchy announced his resignation as chief executive officer in July 2007, giving way to Bob Nutting, whose Wheeling, W.Va.-based family had gradually begun buying shares after initially being brought into the ownership group by McClatchy.

Former Major League Baseball labor counsel Frank Coonelly was brought in as club president later that year, assuming McClatchy's former role as the head of day-to-day operations. Nutting took the title of chairman of the board.

In the 18 months since Nutting took over, the team has hired not only a new chief executive but a general manager (Neal Huntington) and manager (John Russell).

"While this move will mark the end of Kevin's direct involvement with the Pirates after more than 13 years, he will always remain a part of the Pirates family," Nutting said in a statement. "He has made a lasting positive impact on the Pirates and our city. On behalf of the entire organization, I personally thank him for all he has done for the cub and the city of Pittsburgh."

McClatchy, who turns 46 on Jan. 13, emerged as a surprise bidder for the Pirates in 1995, after Pennsylvania cable TV franchise owner John Rigas was designated to buy the team but did not complete the transaction. Then-NL president Len Coleman guided McClatchy's group through the $95 million transaction so a franchise now worth three times that amount would not leave.

While McClatchy kept the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and was the driving force in getting PNC Park financed and built for the 2001 season, the team never had a winning season while he was the owner. The Pirates tied a major league record with their 16th consecutive losing season last year.

"I take responsibility for the losing, that's probably in some ways reason for a change," McClatchy said in 2007.

McClatchy's lobbying also was instrumental in the 2006 All-Star Game being played in PNC Park, only 12 years after the game was staged in Three Rivers Stadium.

"Kevin McClatchy saved the Pittsburgh Pirates. He assumed control of the franchise amid considerable turmoil and during the worst economic period in baseball history," commissioner Bid Selig said in 2007.

The Pirates did not announce who purchased McClatchy's shares, though the Nutting family acquired its majority stake in the team by buying from previous shareholders.