[MLB] - Brewers for sale

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MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Milwaukee Brewers put a "for sale" sign on the franchise Friday -- more than 30 years after Bud Selig and his family moved the team to Milwaukee.

The club has hired investment banking firm Allen & Company of New York to handle the deal, Wendy Selig-Prieb, chairman of the Brewers board of directors, told reporters Friday afternoon.

No timeline has been set for the sale, and the board has not yet discussed a price.

The team's home, though, seems unlikely to change. The Brewers have a 30-year lease to play at Miller Park that Selig-Prieb called "ironclad."

The retractable-roof ballpark, built for more than $413 million with revenue from a five-county sales tax, opened on April 6, 2001.

"This ownership group came into being when baseball left our community, and their objective was to make sure that baseball was here for our community for generations to come," Selig-Prieb said. "So having now secured that future, this ownership group believes it is now time to move on."

Board member Michael Grebe said it was unclear whether the board would find a local entity to buy the team. He noted two teams recently sold, the Boston Red Sox and the Florida Marlins, went to outside investors.

"Obviously, no process like this can be limited only to local ownership," he said.

Bud Selig led a group of investors who purchased the team from a federal bankruptcy court in Seattle in 1970.

He ran the Brewers until 1998, when he was voted baseball commissioner after six years of holding the job on an interim basis. His shares were put in a trust that put the team in control of his daughter, Selig-Prieb.

"Now it is time for me to formally sever my ties to the Milwaukee Brewers," Bud Selig said.



In a statement released Friday, Selig said he was formally severing his ties with the team.

"As commissioner, it is inappropriate for me to root for any one club, but I must admit, and I hope people will understand, that I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Milwaukee Brewers," Selig said.

If his family sells, the New York Yankees' George Steinbrenner would become the major leagues' senior owner, having bought the team in 1973.

Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, said Miller Park could attract possible investors.

"It would be much worse if we were talking about a team that was not out of County Stadium and there was no talk of a new facility," he said.

But the Brewers' small market could be a drawback, Swangard said.

"Baseball is still struggling with how it provides the financial mechanism to give these smaller market teams a chance to compete and obviously this isn't the New York Yankees, this isn't the Boston Red Sox in those major markets," he said.

Last year, Forbes Magazine estimated the Brewers franchise value at $238 million.

The Brewers have been in flux since the fall of 2002, when Selig-Prieb resigned as team president and hired Ulice Payne Jr. to the job in a shakeup that also included bringing in new general manager Doug Melvin, who later hired new manager Ned Yost.

The Brewers went 68-94 last year, winning a dozen more games than the previous season, but still finishing in last place.

In November, the Brewers negotiated a multimillion dollar buyout with the popular Payne after he went public with his opposition to a plan to cut Milwaukee's payroll by 25 percent in 2004.

Grebe said the team was suspending its search for a new president until the sale progresses. Executive vice president Rick Schlesinger now leads the organization with chief financial officer Robert Quinn and Melvin.

The Brewers dealt another blow to fans when they traded their most popular player, All-Star slugger Richie Sexson, to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a nine-player deal in December.

In its inaugural season, Miller Park was a financial windfall. The Brewers were baseball's most profitable team after revenue sharing, netting $16.1 million. But fans declined after the team lost a franchise-record 106 games in 2002.

The Brewers cut payroll to $40.6 million last year and now plan to spend about $30 million on payroll each year through 2006.

Grebe said selling the team was not an admission that its owners could not field a successful team, "it just reflects the desire to let someone else try."

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