Task force to review Brewers' records

12/5/2003 - Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers
have agreed to open their financial records to review by a panel of three business executives, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel learned Wednesday.

The task force will analyze the team's finances, and a report is expected to be issued in 90 days.

The agreement is expected to be formally announced Thursday. The deal was worked out by Brewers team officials and city officials.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer (R-West Bend), when told of the new development, told the newspaper she still wanted a state auditor to be part of the review.

The special task force will spend 90 days reviewing the sources and uses of funds by the Brewers from 1994 through 2003 and will release a report to the public, according to the newspaper. The panel reportedly will include Curt Culver, president and CEO of the MGIC Investment Corp.; Jim Keyes, chairman of Johnson Controls; and Bob O'Toole, chairman and CEO of the A.O. Smith Corp.

The team is trying to restore its credibility, which was heavily damaged when Ulice Payne Jr., then the team's president and CEO, made public his concerns about plans by the team's board of directors to cut the payroll next season to $30 million.

Payne's comments provoked heavy criticism directed against the Brewers, with fans and politicians saying the Brewers had not lived up to their end of the bargain after the state Legislature approved a stadium package in 1995 that included a five-county sales tax.

"We want to ensure that public officials, the business community and our fans fully and accurately understand these financial issues, and we believe having this review done independently and by a group with tremendous financial experience and expertise will provide a clear and accurate view of the ballclub's finances and continued commitment to preserving major league baseball in Wisconsin," Wendy Selig-Prieb, chair of the team's board of directors, told the newspaper.

In recent weeks, the Journal Sentinel reported that the Brewers generated nearly $110 million in operating revenue in 2001, the first year the team moved into Miller Park. However, operating revenue began to drop in 2002 and 2003 as attendance dropped.

The team lost money in 1998 and 1999 but reported profits in 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to information obtained by the Journal Sentinel. Team debt stands at around $110 million, team officials told the paper.

Earlier this week, the Brewers shipped slugger Richie Sexson to the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for six young players. Sexson, 28, will make $8.6 million next year, the final season of his contract.