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24 November 2009

San Francisco Magazine article on Wolff/Fisher

The media blitz has begun. The Trib's Joe Stiglich references a feature piece in the December issue of San Francisco Magazine (not online). In it, writer Steve Kettmann, a San Jose native who spent a few years as the A's beat writer, gets the clearest statements yet from Wolff and more surprisingly, "silent" partner John Fisher. One of the Fisher quotes takes another prominent sports media personality to task:
Fisher and Wolff are a generation apart, but Fisher told me that he considers Wolff "a tremendous partner and friend, who, while he values my input, is the final decision-maker and has been from the beginning-despite what [Chronicle columnist] Ray Ratto may write.
Later, Wolff describes how he came to be involved with (and later own) the A's:
So 40-plus years later, during the 2002 World Series, (Selig) tracked down Wolff in Paris and asked him to one of the Giants-Angels games. To get there, Wolff enjoyed the first of many police-escorted trips with the commissioner. They traveled from the Mark Hopkins Hotel to PacBell Park. Then, during the game, Selig asked Wolff if he had any interest in talking to the A's owners, Hofmann and Schott.

"Lewie, would you be interested in buying the interest of one of the partners in the A's?" Selig asked.

"I thought my role, if I bought in, might be to work on the venue and have a little fun," Wolff told me.

Soon enough, while investigating the idea, Wolff got a call from John Fisher, with whom he had been a co-investor in hotels such as the Carlyle in New York, the San Jose Fairmont, and the San Francisco Fairmont. Fisher and his father had been part owners of the Giants before largely dropping out in 1995, so Wolff asked about the idea of crossing the bay to buy out the A's owners. "I think it was around $180 million for all of it, which required about $100 million in cash," Wolff told me. That was too rich for Wolff's blood, so "I said to John, 'I'll just take a small piece, and I'll run it. Whatever you want.' So John called back and said, 'If you'll buy 10 percent now and commit to buying another 15 percent, I'll join you.'

"I said, 'You know, once you ask someone to run a team, they can't be removed easily, unless I kill someone or something. So are you sure?' And John said, 'Oh yeah, we've known you a long time.' "

Wolff told me he now has $15 million invested. "This is a significant investment for me, and it's not chump change. I think my ownership position is as large as Peter Magowan's was in the Giants."
While it may seem like the backstory is the focus of the article, it is just backstory. Still, I put it out there for emphasis. The idea that the ownership situation was ever in flux since the Wolff/Fisher group took control was and is patently absurd. The real thrust of the piece is San Jose, San Jose, San Jose. And no, the fact that it's in San Francisco magazine is not accidental.

There's a lot more, including a sadly humorous anecdote about the Coliseum from Billy Beane and Sandy Alderson commenting on territorial rights. It's definitely a worthwhile read, so head out to your local newsstand/bookstore/library to check it out.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

What I personally enjoyed about the short blurb that ML placed was Fisher putting Ratto in his place--not sure if Ray really believes the stuff he writes but most rates right up there with the national enquirer

Tony D. said...

Selig refers to Mr. Wolff as "Lewie?" I think that in itself erases any doubt of the A's winding up in San Jose.

Dan said...

I love the dig at Ray Ratto by John Fisher.

daveinsm said...

can one of you guys post that article from the magazine?

i would love to read the dig at Ray Ratto, haha

Marine Layer said...

daveinsm - Email me and I can help you out.

Anonymous said...

Lew Wolff in 1996: "If I was going to pursue a ballpark... I wouldn't spend 5 minutes on any other city besides San Jose."

East of Alameda said...

There are rumblings that the "Keep the A's in Oakland" movement is going to spring some surprise information in the coming week or so. In that light, this media barrage looks like a savvy sneak-attack by Lew/Fisher in order to set the terms of the discussion before it gets started. It's just a giant chess game and Lew/Fisher just made a very nice move. Which sucks.

Anonymous said...

The Mercury News has a bit more on the piece:
http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_13854621

"We need revenue," Wolff says. "We need to have a fan experience that allows us to attract 25,000 people, rather than 4,000."

Anonymous said...

East of Alameda--will be interesting to see what this is--but at the end of the day--we know that there is no EIR which takes 18months--most likely land acquisition and who knows what pitfalls exist there, not to mention lack of political leadership/will--all of which San Jose has going for it. Interesting timing if its true--right before the owners meeting---but at this point in time--unless the 3 items above plus the money to buy the land are in place I have a hard time believing it will be anything more than a back-up plan if SJ fails.

Anonymous said...

Let's Go Oakland is going to announce a "plan" for the OFD Training site.

Anonymous said...

Let's Go Oakland....Please

Don't waste your time. This is embarassingly pathetic. Focus on positive things. Go start raising money for the San Jose election campaign so the A's can have a new ballpark.

Tony D. said...

East of Alameda,

I don't think the classy SF Magazine is going to dedicate an entire article to Wolff/Fisher just to counter some "breaking news" out of some grass-roots Oakland organization. SF Magazine is way better than that.

If plans come out from LGO for the OFD site, then good for them. This article has absolutely nothing to do with that.

Anonymous said...

East of Alameda,

Are you really suggesting that all the talk of San Jose is really a ploy by Wolff/Fisher to get more favorable terms out of Oakland? A "giant chess game" with the city of Oakland? Man, are you serious!? Oh well, it's your world...

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! Yes, I'm sure Wolff takes the Oakland-only effort serious enough to develop a strategy to counter it. Even if he did believe there was something there, why would he bother? If Oakland comes up with a plan, it's good for him to have options.

But let's get real. The Oakland effort has been promising a secret plan for world domination for, well, forever. It's all pipe dreams and wishes from people who have no involvement and no influence over the process. Oh, but they do have a Facebook page! Should be new park rising out of the ground any day now.

Zonis said...

When Oakland actually releases details, I will have a little bit of trust in their 'actions'. But until then, its all hollow. Everything I've heard from Oakland is to the tune of "We have something big, shiney, and thats totally better than San Jose cooking! But we wont tell you what it is." for months.

Anonymous said...

Obviously the OFC group is hoping to impact any potential owners vote around territorial rights---I would assume that if this site is viable than the BRC would be well versed on it and it would not be a "suprise". MLB needs to end the game so that the building can begin in 2011--not at some future date in 2014 or so that the OFC crowd would like to promote-

East of Alameda said...

Thanks for the kindness, fellas. I'm not sure what I said to set the snark and vitriol out of the woodwork, but so be it.

I'm not saying Oakland's got a great plan, or any plan for that matter. The only point I was trying to make is that Wolff & Co made a shrewd political move. It may be that the Oakland proposal has yet to get off the ground, but deflating their sails before they start is not an opportunity to be missed.
And for the comment that a "classy" magazine like SF Mag wouldn't run a story like that for Wolff/Fisher's benefit is just silly. The chance to get in a headlining story that will raise the mag's visibility in such a weak news market is an easy sell. Just because Wolff/Fisher are making a savvy move doesn't mean its some tainted story that SF mag wouldn't be willing to touch.

Georob said...

Tony, you know full well that Selig and Wolff's friendship started in college and predates any involvement with either baseball OR San Jose.

I think you're grasping for news right now because there simply hasn't been any. I've said for three years now that the road to San Jose was going to be a long one. And frankly, the California economic climate isn't helping any.
For now though you just need to chill.

And BTW, I have to agree with that one poster who couldn't understand why San Jose didn't jump at the chance to get the Monarchs to move to HP Pavilion. Especially if they have ambitions of eventually landing an NBA franchise.

It just goes to show that the "city that knows how"...well, doesn't.

Cheers!

Marine Layer said...

Rob: Cart before horse on the WNBA.

Navigator said...

The Let's Go Oakland Facebook site has nearly 20,000 fans who want the A's to stay in Oakland. These are people who are passionate about this issue. I'm sure they'll be first in line to purchase season tickets to a San Jose ballpark after the owner gives them his middle finger.

Wolff and Fisher maybe dismissive of Oakland and its passionate fans but it will come back to bite them in the butt. No one likes to be told that they don't matter. Who is going to fill this proposed ballpark in San Jose? Will it be former South Bay Giant fans? It certainly won't be those 20,000 and growing die hard OAKLAND A's fans.

Anonymous said...

Naviglick, if you spammed every site with a "Keep the A's in the Bay" campaign, then it'd probably have 20,000 members just the same.

It's also funny that people keep painting the South Bay as being 100% pro-Giants but bemoan the future plight of the many North Bay A's fans. How convenient these allegiances are for your argument.

Anonymous said...

Nav--you gotta have a threat that means something--I could put together 20k facebook group in less than a week working at my computer alone--it certaintly isn't the less than 10,000 season tix holders of present--a healthy portion of which are from the south bay-

GeoRob--if I was running an arena I would have a hard time penciling out the business case for bringing a WNBA franchise into the area--and btw--it has zero impact on bringing an NBA team into SJ--if it implies anything about SJ--it shows they are getting much more selective about who they want to dance with--SVSE is the management arm that most cities wish they had--

Anonymous said...

Just curious, why did the old Earthquakes move to Texas?

Anonymous said...

AEG wanted a stadium built for them. They didn't get it. In fact, they still don't have it.

Anonymous said...

Does Wolff or Fisher know about the resurgence of Oakland? I don't know about you, but I don't think San Jose has anything sexy compared to Oakland in terms of sites. I mean, what city has views of the bay, critically acclaimed dining like Flora, Wood Tavern, and more. Also, I think Wolff is missing out on the cool factor that Oakland has. Look at Oaklandish! I mean San Jose doesn't have the cachet of coolness like Oakland. San Jose is just a bunch of tech drones. It's devoid of culture!

Georob said...

If Oakland decided to take a pass on the Monarchs and they instead moved to HP Pavilion, the SJ cheerleaders would be all over it, labeling Oakland as "hostile to pro sports" and proclaiming it as the "next step to making San Jose the sports hub of Northern California" BLAH BLAH BLAH......

And if that's putting the "cart before the horse", well isn't that what much of this blog is about?

Marine Layer said...

Rob, all of these efforts are political, whether you're trying to bring the A's to San Jose or the Monarchs to Oakland. In doing this, there is a process that has to be followed. For Oakland, it means not acting until the Monarchs are clearly in trouble and the Kings are ready to give them up. For San Jose, it means prepping the site and proposal until it's time to present it. When it comes to hoops, San Jose's not going to pursue the 8,000/game property first. They're going after the 17,000/game property first. If they get the WNBA franchise after that, it's a bonus.

Side note: You haven't commented in a while, and your trolling needs work.

Jeffrey said...

Reading the comments on the Let's Go Oakland facebook group makes it really funny to see Nav come over here and type "nearly 20,000" fans that support keeping the A's in Oakland. Considering that all kinds of people on there suggest San Jose and Sacramento as alternatives, though they are members of the group.

Anonymous said...

1:14, do you have school today or do they give you five days off?

Anonymous said...

@ 1:14: Oakland is sexy? Since when is the third highest crime rate in the country sexy? Mayor Reed once said that San Francisco may be the prom queen, but San Jose is the valedictorian. Follow that analogy further and Oakland the dropout.

cbg015 said...

at Anonymous 10:19am,
If you've been to downtown Oakland recently, it sort of is becoming sexy for new bars and restaurants at least.

Unfortunately, Oakland's upcoming culinary scene along with its artists and hipsters can't keep the A's there.

Anonymous said...

The same could be said of downtown San Jose. The generalizations go both ways here. The big difference is that the lay person has more reluctance to visit a place they think is full of criminals than a place they think is full of nerds.

Anonymous said...

The East Oakland location of the Coliseum is itself probably worse than a general "crime reputation" for the city. San Francisco is pretty high up the crime stats list too, yet is the number 1 tourist destination in America. St. Louis is worse than Oakland in the most recent major crime stats, and people go to their fancy new downtown ballpark, no problem.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I might resemble the nerd remark, but San Jose has some beautiful people too.

Jeffrey said...

NERD POWER!!!!