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Red Sox sold to group led by Jean Yawkey

Toronto Vice-President Peter Bavasi was making the walk down the runway between O’Hare Airport and the hotel yesterday morning about 9:30 when he spotted Haywood Sullivan coming out of a coffee shop. “Congratulations, owner,” shouted Bavasi.

“The meeting’s not until 11,” Sullivan said.

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“The meeting,” replied Bavasi, “is a formality.”

It turned out that it was. The American League owners met in the O’Hare Hilton, and five minutes after Yawkey Foundation Counsel Patrick Sullivan made his presentation - and six months after voting down a Sullivan-LeRoux proposal 11-3 in Hawaii - they unanimously voted to approve the sale of the Red Sox from the Yawkey Estate to the Boston Red Sox Baseball Club, a group headed by Sullivan, Edward G. (Buddy) LeRoux and Mrs. Jean Yawkey.

The purchase price, $20.5 million, is the highest ever paid for a sports franchise. Papers for the corporation will be filed in the next couple of days and the sale will be closed next week in Boston.

And when it was over, someone asked Sullivan how he felt. “Do you remember how you felt when you finally graduated from college?” Sullivan answered. “It’s been a long, hard struggle,” said LeRoux. “It’s been a great education. We’ve had a few heartaches, but the ultimate result made it all worthwhile.”

The new owners of the Red Sox won’t be much different from the ownership that’s run the club since last October.

Mrs. Yawkey, Sullivan and LeRoux are the general partners, but but Mrs. Yawkey remains president. Sullivan is Executive Vice-President in charge of administration.

That is significantly different from the setup that died in Hawaii, in which Sullivan and LeRoux were equal partners.

While this is the largest sale in sports history, “sale” is a bit of a misnomer. This is really a transfer of assets for Mrs. Yawkey, who had donated $5.5 million worth of real estate, $1 million in the general partners’ fund and an unspecified number of increments in the limited partnership, generally held to be six, worth $3 million.

“We feel that this ownership is in a far stronger position now than had the application been approved in Hawaii,” said AL President Lee MacPhail. “I think the original package was stronger than many in the league,” said Leroux, “but we took the suggestions and learned a lot. You won’t find many business deals anywhere that include no indebtedness.”

Sullivan said that an additional $5 million in cash was raised, wiping out the original bank loan. Mrs. Yawkey has been added as a general partner, and gone from the original group are Ernest Dade of Winchester, Earl Groper, of Braintree and Frank Ramsey of Louisville.

“What this means now is that Sullivan is the boss,” said another owner. “He and Mrs. Yawkey will always vote together. Before, since Leroux had brought the money men in, other owners assumed that in any dispute, Leroux would be the boss. It’s not a knock at Leroux per se, it’s just that Sullivan is known and Sullivan is the link to the Yawkey tradition.”

When it was over, Milwaukee owner and AL Finance Committee Chairman Bud Selig, who had recommended that the first package be rejected, came out and said that he and another protagonist, NY owner George Steinbrenner, had seconded the proposal.

“It took five minutes, which is four minutes more than it should have,” said Selig. “They met every guideline we established. It is an extraordinarily well put-together package. Fifteen million in cash is very impressive. No debt service? Outstanding.”

The package was $15 million in cash - 30 increments at $500,000 apiece spread over nine limited partners - plus the ballpark, parking lot and “other assets” valued at $5.5 million. In addition, there is a reserve fund of $9.5 million; each of the general partners chipped in a million apiece, there is a call provision of $4.5 million on the limited partners and $2 million in working revenue put aside. Contrary to rumor, Leroux said “no assets were sold” in raising the additional $5 million over the last package.

The limited partners are Leroux, Mrs. Yawkey, H.M. Stevens of New York, Dr. Arthur M. Pappas of Wellesley, Albert Curran of Woburn, the new team general counsel, Rogers Badgett of Madisonville, Ky., a coal multi-millionaire, New Hampshire construction magnate Samuel Tamposi, Thomas D. DiBenedetto of Everett, a New York City investment banker, and Harold Alfond of Dexter, Me., president of Dexter Shoe Co.

Leroux sees no problem with the long forgotten suit by the ATO Corp., which had bid $18.75 million back in September and filed suit because its high bid wasn’t accepted. “The judge threw it out as a nuisance suit before (in December),” said Leroux, “We haven’t heard anything since.”

Sullivan said it took so long to consummate for a number of reasons, “We’re in effect applying to become partners in the American League,” said Haywood. “And Boston is one of the leaders in baseball and the American League, a cornerstone, so the operational and financial setup must come under close scrutiny. If I had been on the other side of the fence, I’d have done the same thing myself.”

The $20.5 million price tag that other people across the country will make the other owners-many of whom are presently contemplating selling their clubs very happy. “Of course the real estate brings the price up,” said Leroux. “There are only two other teams to my knowledge, the Cubs and White Sox, that own their own ballparks.”

So the long ordeal for the former trainer, Leroux, and former catcher, Sullivan, is all but officially over. They are owners, after months of public scrutiny. “I don’t appreciate some of the things that have been written and said,” said Leroux. “But most of the media has been fair.

“We’re fortunate, however, because there is no real changeover. Mrs. Yawkey has had us operating the club for months now, so there is no transition.”

Very little else was accomplished at the league meeting. Indians president Gabe Paul was granted an extension to find a buyer for the shares in the Yankees he still owns. A couple of reports were given, and the meeting was over by 12:15. Carl Finley flew all the way in from Oakland, then got a 1:05 flight back, while his father, Charles O. Finley, didn’t even bother to come out to O’Hare from his Chicago office to see his former manager approved as owner of the Red Sox.

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