MLB to talk with prospective buyers in 7-10 days

Updated: January 13, 2005, 12:59 AM ET
Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Major League Baseball still is targeting April for finding an owner for the Washington Nationals, now that the new home of the former Montreal Expos has been determined.

"I would expect that we would start the diligence with the prospective buyers within a week to 10 days," baseball's chief operating officer Bob DuPuy said Wednesday during a break in the owners' meeting. "We've got materials assembled in New York, and we'll be inviting groups in, and we'll go from there."

Owners are scheduled to vote Thursday on the $223 million sale of the Milwaukee Brewers from the family of commissioner Bud Selig to Mark Attanasio.

Asked if six to eight prospective ownership groups were expected, DuPuy said, "a little higher than that, and my guess is it will sort itself out over time."

Ownership of the Washington, Oakland and Milwaukee franchises were to be discussed during the two-day session at a north Scottsdale resort.

Owners are scheduled to vote Thursday on the $223 million sale of the Milwaukee Brewers from the family of commissioner Bud Selig to Mark Attanasio. Some met Wednesday with prospective Oakland Athletics buyer Lewis Wolff.

Baseball's other 29 teams purchased the Expos before the 2002 season, then began a search for a new home for the franchise. Washington finally was chosen, but that agreement almost fell through before public financing for a new 41,000-seat stadium was approved last month by a 7-6 vote by the District of Columbia Council. The team will play in revamped RFK Stadium while the new ballpark is constructed.

"My objective has been all along to get the team sold as rapidly as possible, and I'm not going to give up on opening day," DuPuy said.

The Nationals open their season April 4 at Philadelphia and play their home opener 10 days later against Arizona.

Meanwhile, Wolff was introduced to members of baseball's ownership committee on Wednesday.

"There's no pending application," DuPuy said, "so it's what I would call in the preliminary stages right now."

Wolff, vice president for venue development for the Athletics, has an option to buy the team from Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann, and said he will make a decision in the next three months. Wolff's appearance was "to get him to meet some of the people in the industry, let them get to know him and let him get to know them," DuPuy said.

Wolff, who lives in Los Angeles, was brought in by the A's in 2003 to lead the search for a new stadium, and maybe a new hometown, for the franchise. He has a self-imposed deadline of three months from now to decide whether to move ahead with a purchase.

Speculation that Wolff might try to move the A's to San Jose has met with opposition from San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan. The Giants have territorial rights to the San Jose area, and Selig indicated owners are not likely to give ground.

"Territorial rights don't change," the commissioner said.

Selig was much more talkative about the sale of the Brewers, calling Attanasio "very thoughtful, very smart, extremely smart."

"I think he's going to bring a lot of energy," Selig said.

Selig said that bringing baseball back to Milwaukee by acquiring the bankrupt Seattle Pilots was "my proudest accomplishment."

The sale of the Brewers means baseball fans in Milwaukee don't have to worry about losing another team, the commissioner said.

"Now they don't have to go through what people went through in '64 and '65, when the Braves were leaving Milwaukee," Selig said. "There is no question about it. So whatever the controversy was about the ballpark or anything else, the Brewers are there. They're secure, and they're a marvelous asset."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press