Warriors co-owner says “100% not true” that he’s looking to buy A’s

So remember how the Golden State Warriors owners are maybe interested in buying the Oakland A’s and building them a new waterfront stadium? Somebody actually asked Warriors co-owner Peter Guber that on Wednesday night, and he said no, no he’s not:

“Absolutely not true,” Guber told The Times. “100% not true.”

Guber declined comment about whether Lacob might be interested but called it “categorically incorrect” to say he might be.

“I have not had any conversations with the league or any of the owners about buying the team,” Guber said. “I love the Dodgers. I love the Warriors.”

That “I love the Dodgers” is because Guber is also part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and would have to sell his share in order to buy the A’s. Which he could always change his mind and do, or Lacob could buy the A’s without him, or “I have not had any conversations” means he’s thinking about it but hasn’t actually met with anyone, or it could all just be smoke that Oakland officials are blowing to try to get momentum for a stadium plan at Howard Terminal. Who knows, really?

Warriors owners reportedly interested in buying A’s, building stadium in Oakland

The Oakland A’s stadium situation has gone from “no action since the late Pleistocene” to “everything happened all at once” in record time. In the last two days, we’ve seen a bunch of Oakland corporate magnates release renderings of what a stadium would look like on the Oakland waterfront (cranes! lots of cranes!), which was followed by A’s owner Lew Wolff calling that site “absolutely impossible” but for the first time indicating that the current Oakland Coliseum site is possibly “a place in Oakland where you could do something,” which for Wolff is practically a ringing endorsement.

And then, last night, there was this:

According to knowledgeable sources, the owners of the Golden State Warriors are part of one of at least three potential investment groups who are interested in buying the A’s and building the new ballpark in Oakland on their own…

Despite being spurned by Wolff, the Rogers-Ghielmetti-Knauss-Boxer team is not willing to give up on the waterfront plan. In fact, sources tell us the group knew full well that Wolff might reject their proposal. As such, they made contingency plans and have been shopping around the Howard Terminal proposal for potential investors, identifying at least three groups who are interested in buying the A’s and building the Howard Terminal ballpark themselves, sources say. And one of these groups, sources say, is led by Warriors’ owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber — two wealthy men who had tried to buy the A’s previously.

Given the timeline here, and that the story (in the East Bay Express) is based entirely on unnamed sources, it seems pretty likely that this is Howard Terminal stadium advocates trying to talk up their site in the media. Still, that doesn’t mean a sale to Lacob and Guber couldn’t happen: Even if it’s the Rogers-Ghielmetti-Knauss-Boxer team that came up with the idea, if Wolff eventually tires of waiting in vain for MLB to give him the right to move to San Jose, he could conceivably throw in the towel and let the whole mess be the Golden State Warriors owners’ problem.

Said problem, meanwhile, would first and foremost be how the heck to pay for a stadium at Howard Terminal, which has been estimated to have a $500 million price tag, but that’s 1) probably an underestimate and 2) not including land and infrastructure costs. Lacob and Guber are currently pursuing a mostly privately funded arena on the San Francisco waterfront, of course, but that’s 1) in exchange for development rights to nearby sites, which Howard Terminal can’t really offer (this is Wolff’s main gripe about the site), 2) an arena that can be used 200 or more days a year, not a stadium limited to baseball, and 3) in San Francisco, not Oakland. Shuffling around sites and rich guys is all well and good, but unless you find one so eager to build that he’s willing to lose money (or at least take on massive risk) on the deal, the real trick is figuring out how to pay for it. Maybe the A’s could charge fans extra for crane rides? Just a thought.

A’s waterfront stadium re-proposed, this time with pictures

Don’t look now, but there’s another proposed Oakland A’s stadium site in Oakland. Okay, not really “another” — it’s the same Howard Terminal site that’s been kicking around for years — but at least it’s not the Coliseum City complex that would require the A’s current home to be torn down before a new one could be built. And now the Howard Terminal site (near the outdoor mall area at Jack London Square, if you know Oakland geography at all) has prominent proponents, like Clorox CEO Don Knauss and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s son! Plus artist’s renderings:

And a capsule description — “imagine AT&T Park flanked by giant shipping cranes” — that, um, okay, maybe that one needs a little work.

A’s owner Lew Wolff continues to hate the Howard Terminal site, calling it “as close to impossible as anything” and saying it “would be easier to build on Treasure Island.” But then, he would say that, as he’s angling to prove to MLB that he has no choice but to move his team to San Jose, where the people with money just happen to live. A bigger objection would be that there’s still no idea of how the $500 million construction cost would be paid for (pretty sure that doesn’t include land and environmental cleanup), but that still doesn’t make it any more implausible than Coliseum City. Maybe somebody will actually get serious about crunching numbers once the San Jose territorial rights issue is resolved, which should be any century now.

Selig rejected A’s move to San Jose in June, but can still unreject it later if he wants

Here’s one I missed from over the weekend: In a court filing late Friday, MLB lawyers revealed that league commissioner Bud Selig formally rejected Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff’s request to move the team to San Jose:

MLB lawyers revealed that the league denied the A’s relocation request in a June 17 letter from Selig, who “formally notified the Athletics’ ownership that he was not satisfied with the club’s relocation proposal.” San Jose filed its lawsuit against MLB the following day, alleging the league had violated antitrust laws and unlawfully interfered with a November 2011 option agreement between the city and the A’s to buy ballpark land.

That’s big news, since we’ve been waiting for years for Selig to rule on whether the A’s can move to San Jose, right? Except that’s not what he actually did, reports the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser:

Multiple sources with knowledge of the case said that MLB did not outrightly reject an A’s move to San Jose, despite that contention in court documents filed Friday as part of the city’s lawsuit against the league…

Selig’s June 17 letter addressed only the details of the stadium relocation proposal – not the principle of relocation, the sources say.

That’s all a bit vague, but still, the upshot is clear: Selig was just rejecting this request for the A’s the move to San Jose, not ruling out such a move forever. That decision is still in limbo pending the resolution of the A’s territorial-rights battle with the San Francisco Giants, which will be happening right about the time that the universe is destroyed by a new universe bubbling up to replace it.

The bigger question now that we know that Selig sent this letter back in June, meanwhile, is: Why back in June? Did Wolff issue some formal request for relocation back in May that we didn’t hear about? Does Selig just send out these letters every couple of months, in case his lawyers need them in legal proceedings? Is the Higgs boson really going to kill us all? (Okay, that’s actually four questions, but you know what I mean.)

Oakland still has no idea how much Coliseum City would cost, who would pay for it

Finally somebody has noticed that Oakland’s proposed Coliseum City project lacks any semblance of an idea how to pay for it: Members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which co-owns the Oakland Coliseum site, say they’re concerned that the project — which could include new stadiums for the Raiders and A’s, as well as a massive 800-acre housing and office complex — has no commitment of money from its private partners and would cost the public an as-yet-undetermined amount. As they told SFGate:

“We don’t have all the inside information as to why Forrest City (the original developers) dropped out,” [Supervisor Nate Miley] said. The city’s investment partners, Colony Capital, “have all this money but to date have put no money on the table.”…

“This project is bigger than all of us and the I-880 corridor has great potential benefits,” [Supervisor Richard] Valle said. “I’m not going to be in favor of any public financing or gift of public funds – across the board. If it’s the economic development opportunity that people perceive, then it’s got to stand on its own legs.”…

“The county’s position is that the city can’t do it without the county – and if they … need county resources, then we also want a share in the upside from the project,” [said ... actually, SFGate left off the attribution, but presumably it was someone on the board].

How much in city and county “resources” are we talking about here? No one quite seems to know, though Miley speculated, “At the end of the day — if it’s a $2 billion project and the public share is half a billion — will there be enough revenue to offset that. Who knows?” But why quibble over a couple billion dollars in missing money when there are all these pretty pictures to — wait, is that a monorail? No wonder the Oakland city council hearing on the project went like this.



Wolff, Oakland swear A’s lease talks are going fine, everybody chill

That didn’t take long: One day after MLB threatened to move the Oakland A’s to San Francisco if they couldn’t agree on a new lease in Oakland, both A’s owner Lew Wolff and Oakland officials said that of course they’re going to sign a new lease on the Coliseum:

Wolff said Monday through the team that the A’s will extend their lease at the Oakland Coliseum and “look forward to another great season.”…

The Coliseum Authority also sounded encouraged by the progress, issuing a statement from board chair and Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley.

“We are working on a deal that we believe will be beneficial for both our tenant and the people of this community,” the statement said. “We are confident that everyone involved sees the value in continuing for as long as possible the 45-year relationship between the A’s and the City of Oakland. While we cannot comment on the specific issues now under discussion or on whether there is any basis to recent rumors that Major League Baseball has played a role in the discussions, we are optimistic that a final deal is close at hand.”

Of course, this actually says completely nothing, except that both sides are continuing to work on a lease deal. But then, the MLB move threat didn’t actually say anything either, except for “Don’t make us come in there!”

It’s all brinksmanship, in other words. I can’t think of a single time in sports history that a team has been forced to move because it couldn’t work out a lease renewal, so it’s been inevitable that the two sides would work something out. The main question now is whether MLB’s saber-rattling has gotten Oakland to agree with Wolff on a sweeter deal — say, no rent and no penalty for breaking the lease early and moving elsewhere sounds juicy — and we won’t know that until they actually announce the terms. This little dueling-statements moment has given the opportunity for the press to write more about the Coliseum’s sewage problems, though, so it’s all good.

MLB threatens to move A’s to San Francisco and/or Boise if lease talks fail

Hold on to your hats! Major League Baseball has actually taken an active position in the Oakland A’s stadium situation!

With the A’s lease-extension negotiations bogging down in Oakland, officials from Major League Baseball have introduced the idea of having the Giants share AT&T Park with the Athletics in 2014, [the San Jose Mercury News] has confirmed.

Okay, so this doesn’t actually have anything to do with the battle over San Jose, where Bud Selig and Co. are maintaining their radio silence. And the idea of forcing the San Francisco Giants to accept the A’s as a tenant — for how long? how much would they pay in rent? would they get a share of revenues? what happens on dates when both teams are scheduled to be at home? — is almost certainly meant as a stick with which to threaten Oakland into backing down in stalled lease talks, not a serious consideration just yet, anyway.

Still, it’s a sign that Selig is perfectly willing to get involved in the A’s situation, so long as it’s laying down the hammer on city officials, not on another member of the MLB fraternity. And the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross report that there’s another hammer on the horizon:

With MLB standing in the way of an A’s move to San Jose, which the Giants claim as their market, team owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff would be expected to look elsewhere if they leave the Coliseum for temporary digs – or perhaps sell the team to out-of-towners.

Absolutely no sourcing on this, so it’s entirely possible it’s just Matier and Ross speculating, or some MLB official trying to start a rumor so that Oakland officials are all “Eeeagh! Boise!” Either way, though, it sounds like Oakland will back down — Matier and Ross cite “one Coliseum official” as saying, “We don’t have any choice. Major League Baseball is driving it” — so don’t expect the A’s to be anywhere other than the Coliseum next year, counting all the rent money that the Budfather’s hardball tactics have saved them.

With antitrust suit dismissed, what next for San Jose’s quest for the A’s?

U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte made his ruling in San Jose’s antitrust suit against Major League Baseball over moving the Oakland A’s late on Friday, and it wasn’t a complete win for either side: Whyte dismissed the city’s antitrust charges, on the grounds that baseball’s longstanding Supreme Court-issued antitrust exemption trumps any challenges, but allowed another portion of the suit, accusing MLB of interfering with San Jose’s sale of a option on stadium land to A’s owner Lew Wolff.

San Jose attorney Phil Gregory called this a “big victory,” but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the antitrust piece is the hammer that MLB was deathly afraid of. As NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra (who’d previously pooh-poohed the San Jose suit as a load of p.r.) points out, the threat posed by the tortious interference claim is pretty limited:

The A’s paid San Jose $50,000 for the option. It expires soon. If they want to keep the option open for another year it’s another $25,000. If the A’s owners were to buy the land, they can do it for between $6 million and $7 million. Nothing in the option agreement, however, promises that the A’s will actually move. It doesn’t even promise that they’ll buy the land. Just that they have the option to do so.

Of course, since the antitrust exemption is in place, the A’s can’t just decide to move to San Jose. Therefore, unless they are the biggest idiots on the planet, they will not agree to commit to the $7 million land deal. Put differently, no A’s witness will get on a stand and say “yes, we totally want to give San Jose $7 million right now but MLB won’t let us!”  As such, the value of the contract that San Jose now has to prove MLB interfered with is $75,000. That’s it.

MLB can still be forced to go through the discovery phase, which could include embarrassing subpoenas about Bud Selig’s “blue ribbon commission” and its non-decision-making process, though as FanGraphs’ Wendy Thurm points out, the judge could still allow limits on that as well. But that’s a threat way less scary to MLB than the one of potentially having its antitrust exemption mucked with, and while San Jose could still appeal the rejection of the antitrust claim, that might have to wait until the tortious interference piece is resolved — and even then is a longshot to be approved.

The best-case scenario for San Jose’s A’s-coveting officials here, really, is that MLB decides that the gnat of a suit remaining is annoying enough that Bud Selig calls over to the San Francisco Giants executive offices and says, “Hey, can you at least put a price on what you want for the territorial rights to San Jose, so we can tell this judge we’re not being obstinate?” Though then if the Giants do so, there’s still a fair chance that A’s owner Lew Wolff decides he can’t or won’t pay it, at which point San Jose is suddenly looking at having to prove that MLB is harming them by interfering with a piddly-ass land sale option in order to prevent a franchise relocation that the team’s owner himself is choosing not to pursue. “You’re using your Supreme Court-affirmed rights to control franchise movement to make it too expensive for a team to move to our city” may be a decent argument in the court of public opinion, but unfortunately for San Jose A’s boosters, that court isn’t the one that has jurisdiction here.

Why did MLB’s pro-Oakland video disappear even faster than the A’s from the postseason?

The Oakland A’s got Verlandered out of the playoffs last night, but that wasn’t even the most ignominious moment of their week. How about having their promotional video pulled from airing, allegedly because it might make people think that Oakland has fans and that the Coliseum is a “home” and not just a dump?

Why don’t MLB or the A’s want you to see this pro-Oakland, pro-Coliseum video?

The most obvious answer is that both MLB and the A’s want out of Oakland as soon as possible…

Six days after being pulled offline, the video surfaced again on YouTube, with the uploader claiming that baseball’s and the Athletics’ desire for a new stadium meant a hype reel promoting the magic of the old ballpark wouldn’t be on-message.

Okay, sourcing a news story to YouTube commenters is a bit like … actually, I can’t think of anything as bad as that. There’s been some speculation that the video was only ever meant to be shown inside the stadium, and was posted to MLB’s site unintentionally, though that doesn’t explain why both MLB and MLB Advanced Media declined to explain this when asked by Deadspin. Nor does it explain why it apparently never aired during pregame ceremonies, either.

If nothing else, it’s an indication of how frought everything becomes in the middle of a stadium battle: Poor A’s fans don’t even get to celebrate their city and team spirit during what turned out to be a brief playoff run, because supporting your team when you’re Oakland is grounds for controversy. Which is too bad, as there’s plenty worth celebrating.

Oakland gets a potential stadium developer, now just needs to find money

Stop the presses! Oakland may have a developer for its planned “Coliseum City” stadium and entertainment complex! Or, well, has a developer maybe interested in building it, though it’s not clear that they’re interested in being the ones to pay for it:

The investment group is composed of Colony Capital LLC, which manages investments totaling $32 billion, and Rashid Al Malik, an investor who recently served as deputy CEO of a multibillion dollar aerospace firm founded by the uncle of Dubai’s ruling sheik.

Operating under the banner Bay Investment Group, LLC, Al Malik and Colony are slated to join Oakland’s master-planning team for the Coliseum complex and help fund a new stadium feasibility study.

More importantly, they also want to take the lead in redeveloping the Coliseum complex, which is surrounded by parking lots and cut off from surrounding neighborhoods and city life.

The Coliseum City idea has been kicking around for a couple of years, and would potentially include new venues for the Raiders, A’s, and Golden State Warriors, though since I don’t think anyone’s put a price tag on any of this, it’s all complete wishcasting at this point. Still, the fact that there’s at least one developer who doesn’t think this is a totally crazy idea, plus Raiders owner Mark Davis’s insistence that he only wants a new stadium if it can be in the exact same place as the old stadium, already has people speculating that this spells the death knell for the A’s in Oakland. Like, for example, Forbes “contributor” (read: unpaid blogger) Alicia Jessop:

While some may see this move as the A’s waiving the white flag and succumbing to life in Oakland, the Raiders may slowly riding in as the A’s knight in shining armor.  The shield that the Raiders hold in this case, is that team’s desire to build a new facility on the current coliseum site.

The A’s have made it clear that they have no desire to rebuild or build a new stadium on the current coliseum site.  Thus, if the Raiders’ new stadium plan is approved the possibility exists that the A’s will be left without a place to play when construction is ongoing.  Thus, if this situation arises, might MLB be more inclined to allow the team to move to San Jose?

How should I put this? “No.” Though the image of Lew Wolff calling Bud Selig (or his successor) and crying into the phone, “They’re going to put all our stuff on the curb! Puhleeeeeze tell the Giants they have to let us move now!” is pretty amusing.

Also, note that the white flag is now available to any other A.L. team on waivers. Either that or Forbes doesn’t bother to proofread its “contributors,” and surely that can’t be the case.