Beane also gets extension through 2012
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics got two more new owners on Friday: general manager Billy Beane and team president Michael Crowley.
Lewis Wolff was introduced as the new managing partner of the A's at a small ceremony in the Coliseum and then announced that Beane and Crowley will have small ownership stakes in the club. It was a reward for the two men who have built the small-market team into a perennial playoff contender and a profitable business.
Beane also received a lucrative contract extension through 2012, while Crowley's deal was extended through 2008, although their salaries weren't disclosed.
"I'm excited about the future, and one of the great things now is the stability it brings," said Beane, who has led the club to four playoff appearances and the AL's second-best record during his seven years as GM. "(Ownership) is something I always hoped would become a possibility. ... We're partners, so Lew has said that when it comes to operating the franchise, he's going to give us a free hand."
Wolff, a Los Angeles real-estate mogul, and his partners, including The Gap heir John Fisher, formally took control of the A's this week from a group led by Steve Schott, who will remain as a minority owner. Beane is believed to be the only GM in baseball with an ownership stake in his team.
Although the A's play in a dilapidated stadium in a crowded market, Wolff knows that Oakland's leadership is perhaps the club's biggest asset. He quickly took steps to make sure Beane and Crowley will stay with the A's.
"I think the fans should relax a little bit," Wolff said. "We wanted to prove to everybody that our interest is in the long term."
Wolff has been a consultant on the A's drive for a new stadium since 2003, and he has been impressed with their organizational structure. After reviewing the A's accounting practices and budgets, he joked that he planned to change all of his businesses to look more like his new baseball team.
Fisher, the reclusive billionaire who's putting up most of the money for the estimated $180 million purchase, didn't attend the news conference. With Wolff, Fisher and Schott, the A's now have the third-richest ownership group in baseball.
But that wealth probably won't change much about the A's finances until the club gets a new stadium. Beane and Crowley plan to keep themselves on a fairly strict budget, although Beane acknowledged a bit more flexibility than in the past.
"Until we've assured ourselves of greater revenues, we're going to have to continue to manage as we have in the past," Beane said. "There may be one player or one independent decision where it makes a change. Are we going to radically change? No. Are there some things that may change? Yes."
Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Johnny Damon, Jason Isringhausen, Keith Foulke, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder are among the A's stars who have left town because the club couldn't pay what they were worth. Beane has kept a winning team in Oakland with a remarkable farm system and his own revolutionary methods of scouting and player evaluation.
Beane occasionally has been frustrated by the A's limitations, and he flirted with a move to Boston two seasons ago. But when Wolff's interest in buying the team emerged over the last two years, Beane knew better times were ahead.
"One of the reasons I know I stayed is the personal involvement of Lew," Beane said.
Wolff and his partners plan to spend "most of the next 12 months" looking at possible sites for a stadium and working on a financial plan. The owner declined to divulge specifics, but he has previously said the team is thinking about building a new baseball-only stadium in the Coliseum parking lot.
Wolff is still examining every option for financing the new stadium, which the A's say they need to generate enough revenue to compete with other clubs. Oakland governments haven't been receptive to most ideas on taxpayer contributions -- but many business leaders in the San Jose area, just 30 miles south, are keen on attracting the A's, while Las Vegas and Portland also would love to woo the team.
For now, Wolff is focused on getting a deal in Oakland while Beane keeps a winning team on the field.
"I think we're inheriting a terrific base that we can build on," Wolff said. "I don't see any changes, personally."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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