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Devil Rays' ownership transfer approved

MILWAUKEE -- Baseball owners on Thursday approved transferring control of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to Stuart Sternberg from founding owner Vince Naimoli.

Sternberg, who is now principal owner, has been in charge of the team since Oct. 6.

"It was approved unanimously, so Stuart Sternberg is now in
control of Tampa Bay," commissioner Bud Selig said.

Naimoli was the driving force in bringing baseball to Tampa Bay
and was rewarded with an expansion franchise in 1995. But his stint
as managing general partner was marred by numerous public relations
blunders and he quickly became the man most associated with the
Devil Rays' futility.

Tampa Bay went 518-775 in its first eight seasons, finishing
last in all but one of them. The team has never won more than 70
games, and it had the lowest payroll in the majors last season.

Sternberg headed a group that acquired about 50 percent of the
Devil Rays in May 2004, and was originally supposed to take control
from Naimoli in January 2007. But he convinced Naimoli to step
aside early, and has promised to improve the franchise, on and off
the field.

Naimoli retains 15 percent ownership of the team.

"The time has come for dramatic change for this organization,"
Sternberg said when he took over in October.

He fired general manager Chuck LaMar, and hired Andrew Friedman
as his executive vice president of baseball operations. Longtime
Los Angeles Angels bench coach Joe Maddon was hired Tuesday as the
team's new manager.

Also Thursday, Selig reiterated the need for a new stadium for
the Florida Marlins. The Marlins want a 38,000-seat ballpark next
to the Orange Bowl in downtown Miami, but it's been stalled by
funding issues. While the team, the city and Miami-Dade County have
pledged $390 million toward construction, there's still a gap of up
to $45 million.

The Marlins hoped to be in a new stadium for the 2008 season.
The team's series of one-year leases with Dolphins Stadium will
expire after the 2010 season.

"They're working very hard. ... They need the new ballpark,"
Selig said. "It's very frustrating. We have two or three
franchises that really are going to have to solve their stadium
problems."