Moorad, Padres agree on sale of team

SAN DIEGO -- Former agent Jeff Moorad reached an agreement Tuesday for his group to buy the San Diego Padres from majority owner John Moores, a move that could help prop up the team's sagging on-field fortunes.

Moorad, who resigned last month as chief executive officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and his group will acquire 100 percent ownership during a period of up to five years, subject to approval by baseball owners.

The deal values the team at $500 million and is expected to close by opening day. When it does, Moorad will be CEO of a club that lost 99 games in 2008, its worst finish in 15 seasons.

"I believe things can turn in a hurry and I'm optimistic that this club has a system in place that can certainly spark the turnaround," Moorad said during a conference call.

"My goal is to create and help create, be part of a club that fields a competitive product on the field year in and year out and not just a team that can win, but a team that can compete for the division championship year in, year out."

One immediate result of the agreement was CEO Sandy Alderson's announcement that he will leave the organization once the deal closes.

Moores, the majority owner since December 1994, will remain the chairman.

"I will remain involved with the club for the next few years -- but I absolutely dread thinking about the last day," Moores said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Life goes on."

Moorad declined to identify those in his group of investors, or even how many there were. He said he was still putting together the final group.

He also declined to say what percentage of the club his group will own once the deal closes, other than "it's fair to say that our group will have a significant stake in the franchise Day One."

The sale was precipitated by Moores' difficult divorce from his wife, Becky.

In late December, Moorad said he and Moores discussed the gradual path to control of the club.

"It was an approach that allowed John and his wife Becky to stay involved, at least for the purpose of transitioning ownership in an orderly fashion," Moorad said. "It met the objectives of me and my group as well to purchase control over a period of time. It turned out to be a structure that made sense to everyone involved."

On the day he resigned from the Diamondbacks to pursue the purchase, Moorad called the Padres "a jewel of a franchise."

Moorad said it was "a challenge, to be sure," to buy a club in such tough economic times, "but sometimes you can't always predict when opportunity knocks. In this particular setting, the opportunity presented itself and we jumped. We're excited that we did."

Moorad purchased a share of the Diamondbacks in 2004, the season they lost 111 games. Three years later, the D-Backs ended up going to the NL Championship Series.

He'll eventually have to sell his share in the Diamondbacks.

Moorad said there's flexibility in the deal, and that his group has the right to buy as much as it likes, up to 100 percent, anytime after the first year.

"We like the fact that John and Becky have financed the deal for us, and we're likely to pay over time," Moorad said.

Asked if the player payroll might increase this season, Moorad said: "Our commitment is going to be pretty straightforward -- to the extent that we feel the community is supporting the club, we're going to invest every last dollar back into the product, whether it be the team on the field or whether it be the facility itself."

The Padres had been in a salary dump due to Moores' divorce, with an order from the owner to trim the player payroll to $40 million for 2009. The Padres had been eager to move ace Jake Peavy and the $63 million he'll be owed the next four seasons, but hadn't found a suitable deal.

John Moores, who made a fortune in computer software, bought a controlling stake in the Padres for approximately $80 million in 1994 from a 15-member group headed by TV producer Tom Werner. Werner later became co-owner of the Boston Red Sox.

Under Moores' ownership group, the Padres won four NL West titles and reached the 1998 World Series before being swept by the New York Yankees.

Two weeks after that World Series, voters overwhelmingly approved the construction of Petco Park. But several lawsuits and a yearlong federal investigation into Moores' dealings with a former city councilwoman delayed the downtown ballpark, which opened in 2004. The Padres had losing seasons from 1999-2003, then won the NL West in 2005-06. They were one win away from a third straight playoff appearance in 2007 but lost a wild-card tiebreaker at Colorado in 13 innings.

Moorad grew up in Modesto, Calif., and graduated from UCLA in 1978 before getting his law degree at Villanova. He and his family lived in Newport Beach, Calif., for more than 20 years and still have a home there.

Moorad was a formidable agent who represented several major sports figures, including baseball's Manny Ramirez and Eric Karros, before he purchased a share of the Diamondbacks in 2004. His connection as an agent concerned other owners, so Ken Kendrick continued to serve as managing partner, representing the team in league ownership issues.