The above headline will catch you by surprise, but the wind is blowing in that way. The point is that several people behind the scenes, in touch with the ownership group, and around the Bay Area are talking about how Oakland Athletics Managing Partner Lew Wolff has, as one person put it "blown $20 million" on the effort to find a new home for the Oakland Athletics. Another contact told me one would be "fired" if they lost even $8 million on such a development project so early into the process.
But the concensus for now is to let Wolff continue to do his work, but he's on a short leach. The main problem is Wolff fell in love with the "baseball village" concept, where the ownership has to buy a lot of land not just for a baseball stadium but for residential development in the hope that the improved land sells for more than the group bought it for. That works in a credit-health, prosperous economy, but in today's recessionary and deflationary world its a terrible strategy.
And there's where a lot of the money was lost; in land acquisition. As has been reported, Wolff was not-so-quietly buying land in Fremont with the idea of implementing the village strategy. But now, with the credit crunch that blew up in his face. I explained to the other member of the A's ownership team Don Fisher not too long ago (at a party) that such a move was risky because of the economic bet, but hey, no one listens to me except Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley.
Maybe that will change.
Perhaps in calling Mayor Dellums for a meeting, Wolff has seen the light of a possible new approach involving redevelopment funds and whatever stimulus money can be gotten from the federal government. It's a better gambit now than it was even a year ago, when the word "stimulus" wasn't in the American lexicon.
When I use the term "rumor" in this case, it's not to be taken as something I "overheard"; this possible letting go of Wolff was told to me by two different sources, which I will not reveal, but frankly do want the news out there. So am I saying "the knifes are out"? Yes. They are. And they're sharp ones.
People in the A's organization will wonder who the person's are, but the unfortunate fact is I talk to a lot of people, even folks there. Zeroing in on who it is? Impossible.
Wolff's on notice. Perform and stop losing money. Or else. Of course, now that Major League Baseball's committee on the need for a new A's stadium is in place, it could be said that Wolff's college buddy Commissioner Bud Selig saved him from almost certain doom.
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