Padres sale agreement in place, needs MLB approval

Associated Press

A group that includes former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley and pro golfer Phil Mickelson reached agreement Monday to buy the San Diego Padres from John Moores in a deal believed to be around $800 million.

Ron Fowler, chief executive of Liquid Investments, would become controlling owner if the agreement is approved by baseball owners and finalized, a baseball official said Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because that part of the deal was not announced.

O'Malley is the son of Walter O'Malley, who bought the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 and moved them to Los Angeles before the 1958 season.

"An agreement has been confirmed but is not yet finalized. It has to be voted on," Padres senior vice president, public affairs Sarah Farnsworth said after San Diego beat the Chicago Cubs 2-0 Monday night.

U-T San Diego first reported Monday night that a purchase agreement had been signed.

The purchase price apparently includes the $200 million in upfront money the Padres received from Fox Sports San Diego in a $1.2 billion, 30-year TV deal.

The agreement came months after Jeff Moorad's attempt to buy the team on a layaway plan fell apart. Moores' deal with Moorad, who began his attempted purchase of the club in 2009, was valued at about $500 million.

The price for this sale was inflated thanks to the deal with Fox and the recent sale of the Dodgers for $2 billion.

Moores' divorce forced him to put the team on the market in 2009.

Moores had owned 51 percent of the team while a minority group, once controlled by Moorad and then by Fowler, owned 49 percent.

Baseball owners next meet Aug. 15-16 Denver. It is not clear if the sale will be put to a vote then.

Fans hope a change in owners can turn around the Padres, who regularly have had one of baseball's lowest payrolls and have largely struggled since reaching the 1998 World Series.

The Padres are 47-64 this season and fourth in the NL West.

Moores, the owner since December 1994, slashed the player payroll both in 1999, while the club waited for voter-approved Petco Park to open, and again as he went through his divorce.

Moores has distanced himself from the team in recent years, first as he went through the divorce and as Moorad took over as CEO from 2009 until his sudden resignation in March. Many fans felt Moores showed an increasing disinterest in the club.

A big question is whether the O'Malley group has the operating capital to make the Padres competitive.

The new ownership group includes Peter O'Malley's two sons, Kevin and Brian, and nephews Peter and Tom Seidler. Two of the four are expected to move to San Diego.

Tom Seidler is president of the Class A Visalia Rawhide.

Mickelson, who's from San Diego, said in late May that being involved with the O'Malley group was a good investment opportunity and a chance to be involved in the community.

Mickelson is a four-time major champion who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May.

After presiding over what had been baseball's oldest family dynasty, Peter O'Malley sold the Dodgers to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Group in March 1998 for about $311 million — at the time the most ever paid for a U.S. sports franchise.

Walter O'Malley died in 1979.

Under the O'Malley ownership, the Dodgers won six World Series, 13 NL championships and finished first or second in their division 33 times in 48 years.

By comparison, the Padres have been to two World Series, losing in 1984 and 1998.

Moores' proposed sale of the team to Moorad, a former player agent, collapsed earlier this year after baseball owners refused to approve to proposed transfer of controlling interest.

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

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

While the Padres enjoyed success under Moores in the 1990s and for a stretch in the mid-2000s, the franchise also has struggled.

In November 1998, voters overwhelmingly approved the construction of Petco Park. The downtown ballpark didn't open until 2004, however, due to lawsuits and a federal investigation into Moores' dealings with a city councilwoman.

The Padres had five straight losing seasons from 1999-2003 before going 87-75 in their first season in Petco Park.

Some fans still believe the Padres failed to live up to their promise of using increased revenue from Petco Park to add free agents. In recent seasons, citing financial reasons, the Padres have dealt star players such as Jake Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner, and All-Star slugger Adrian Gonzalez, choosing to stockpile prospects at the expense of a lack of star power.

The Padres have won only one postseason game since their 1998 World Series appearance.

The Padres won the NL West in 2005 and 2006 before losing an epic 13-inning, wild-card tiebreaker game at Colorado in 2007.

Since then, they've been mostly dismal. They lost 99 games in 2008, 87 games in 2009 and 91 games last year. The Padres were surprise contenders in 2010 before collapsing down the stretch.

Another stain on Moores' legacy was his urging the front office to take local high school shortstop Matt Bush with the top pick of the 2004 amateur draft because he came much cheaper than star players in that draft class such as Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver.

Bush was a bust after off-field trouble and elbow surgery derailed his career. He's jailed in Florida in a DUI hit-and-run case.

Verlander, last year's AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, has thrown two no-hitters for the Detroit Tigers and came within two outs of a third earlier this year. Weaver threw his first career no-hitter earlier this season for the Los Angeles Angels.

The Padres are on their third general manager since 2009. Moorad fired Kevin Towers at the end of the 2009 season and replaced him with Jed Hoyer. Hoyer left after the 2011 season to take the same job with the Cubs. He was replaced by Josh Byrnes, who was GM with the Diamondbacks when Moorad was part of the ownership group in Arizona.

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AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum and freelance writer Kevin Scattareggia contributed to this report.

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