Payne had four years left on deal
MILWAUKEE -- Ulice Payne Jr.'s short reign as president of the Milwaukee Brewers ended Friday when he agreed to a contract buyout.
The settlement followed a feud that escalated nearly two weeks ago when Payne criticized the team's plan to cut payroll 25 percent to about $30 million next year, which could be the lowest in baseball.
Payne became the first black team president in major league history in September 2002 when he replaced Wendy Selig-Prieb, who took over as chairwoman of the team's board of directors. Payne had a five-year contract.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the buyout is worth about $2.7 million and includes a 1 percent equity option in the team.
The settlement contains a confidentiality clause that prevents either side from publicly commenting on it. Payne and Brewers board members did not return calls to The Associated Press.
"I wish the team the best and the fans the best as I leave. No hard feelings," he said on Milwaukee television news Friday night.
Payne will receive all of his payments within four years if he does not violate the confidentiality agreement, the paper reported.
Payne has said that the negotiations slowed in recent days as both sides worked on a confidentiality agreement and severance packages for three employees who joined the Brewers to work with Payne.
The rift became public when Payne told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Nov. 9 that the team planned to cut its payroll next year.
Payne has said he went public with his criticisms because he feared the cuts might hurt the team on the field and make it difficult to revive a floundering franchise that hasn't had a winning season since 1992.
Brewers executive vice president of business operations Rick Schlesinger and chief financial officer Bob Quinn, however, said Payne had signed off on the budget.
In a written statement Friday, Payne said he was proud of his accomplishments during his 14-month stay with the Brewers.
The team won 12 more games during Payne's only season than the previous year but still finished last in the NL Central at 68-94.
Attendance at Miller Park has declined in the last two years. The Brewers drew 2.8 million fans in 2001, the year the stadium opened.
The team attracted nearly 2 million fans in 2002 and 1.7 million in 2003.
With Payne's departure, the team will be led by Schlesinger, Quinn and general manager Doug Melvin. John Canning, a member of the team's board of directors, will lead the search for Payne's replacement.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press