Originally created 01/14/02

Red Sox decline a late offer



BOSTON -- The owners of the Boston Red Sox declined Sunday to pursue a late $700 million offer to buy the team and they reconfirmed their Dec. 20 decision to accept a $660 million bid from a group led by Florida financier John Henry.

"We always knew people would fight very hard to own the Red Sox, and that emotions would run high. But enough is enough," Red Sox chief executive John Harrington said in a statement. "It is obvious that there will be another round of criticism from the disappointed. So be it. This is the best decision for the trust and the foundation because it has the highest probability of closing."

Harrington runs the Jean R. Yawkey Trust, which owns a 53 percent controlling share of the Red Sox.

"Whether in business or in personal dealings, an important principle is honoring a deal agreed to between two parties," Henry said in a statement. "We appreciate that the limited partners and the trust share this principle with us."

Meanwhile, a 45-minute telephone conversation between Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly and baseball commissioner Bud Selig did little to answer Reilly's questions about Selig's role in the sale of the team, a spokeswoman for Reilly said.

"We won't get specifically into what was discussed, but it was not that helpful," Ann Donlan said. "It yielded very little new information."

Reilly is trying to determine if Selig's office improperly guided the Red Sox into accepting the Henry group's bid.

Harrington said the team's limited partners rejected the late $700 million offer from cable television billionaire Charles Dolan because it came too late.

The purchase price includes Fenway Park and an 80 percent share in the New England Sports Network.

Dolan, chairman of Cablevision Systems Corp., made the bid Thursday, three weeks after the Red Sox agreed to the offer from Henry, who is in the process of selling the Florida Marlins.

"First, the auction process ended December 20," Harrington said. "Final bids were due that day and all bidders, including Mr. Dolan, were advised of this."

A spokesman for Dolan said he is not giving up.

"He's going to continue to pursue it and hopefully others will act appropriately," Steve Tocco said, referring to possible legal action by Reilly. "I would hope that someone would have the best interest of the charities at heart here. It's somewhat puzzling why Mr. Harrington has turned his back on an additional $30 million for the trust."

Harrington said the team's limited partners also decided to stick with the Henry bid because the group has already paid a $66 million deposit; it still provides a better economic value; and the team wants the new ownership group in place by April's opening day.

"Given Mr. Dolan's cross-ownership of other professional sports teams, his media holdings and the conflicts presented by his brother's ownership of the Cleveland Indians, and the absence of any proposals by Mr. Dolan to solve these issues, the conclusion of the December 20 about the risks and delays inherent in his bid remain unchanged," Harrington said.

Any sale must be approved by major league owners. Baseball's ownership committee met in early January and has placed approval of the Henry group's bid on their winter meetings agenda this Wednesday.

Reilly's investigation will continue. Reilly and Selig were originally scheduled to talk Saturday evening, but that conversation was canceled when Reilly refused to accept baseball's requests to limit what was discussed and what would be made public. Baseball officials called back later Saturday to reschedule the talk on Sunday.

Reilly is investigating whether charities that would benefit from the sale were shortchanged when the team accepted Henry's offer instead of a $750 million bid from a group headed by New York lawyer Miles Prentice. The team claimed the Prentice offer did not have secure financing.

"Our attorneys worked through the weekend to gather information for this comprehensive review of the Red Sox sale," Donlan said. "We have had hours of interviews with bidders and major league baseball and the limited partners. At this point in terms of where we are, we are assessing our options."