UPDATE #1: Statements from the Pohlad family and Commissioner Selig added.
Carl Pohlad, owner of the Minnesota Twins, and baseball’s richest owner died today at the age 93.
Although he ran the Twins in mid-to-small market fashion, Pohlad, who purchased the club from Calvin Griffith for $38 million in 1984 was baseball richest owner, parlaying banking, real estate, a bottling company and other holdings into a net worth of $3.8 billion according to Forbes, making him the 102nd richest person in America.
During his tenure as owner, the Twins won two World Series titles (1987 and 1991), along with four Division titles (2002-2004, 2006).
“Since the day Carl Pohlad entered Major League Baseball, he made significant contributions to our game," said Commissioner Selig in a statement upon hearing the news. "He has been a true leader in our sport for the past 25 years. His devotion to the Minnesota Twins, the Twin Cities and Major League Baseball was remarkable.
“In my long career, I have never met a more loyal and caring human being. We will miss Carl and all of baseball joins me in sending our deepest condolences to the Pohlad family for the loss of our friend and partner.”
He was also one of baseball's most controversial owners.
Pohlad and the Twins had been in search of a new stadium for over a decade, citing the revenue woes of the Metrodome. Pohlad and MLB were criticized in 1997 when it was revealed that what was being presented as an $80 million gift toward a new stadium would be in reality a loan that the State would have to pay back, with interest.
He was also at the center of what was viewed by many as a league violation. In 1995 Pohlad arranged a $3 million loan to the Milwaukee Brewers. At the time, Bud Selig was acting commissioner of the league, as well as president of the Brewers. Owners from Jerry Reinsdorf to Drayton McLane said there was no impropriety involved.
But, it may be Pohlad’s actions from 2001 to 2002 that he may most be remembered by. With MLB claiming to be running in the red, the league looked to dissolve the Montreal Expos via league contraction. To balance the AL and NL out, Pohlad offered up the Twins for contraction as well citing low revenues from playing in the Metrodome, which they shared with NFL Vikings. It was estimated that Pohlad would have made between $125 million to $150 million by the league for dissolving the Twins.
Whether contraction of the Twins was real, or a straw man bluff (there were performance clauses in the Metrodome lease for the Twins, who, as mentioned, won the Division in 2002, thus packing the stadium, the MLBPA had several legal actions prepared against the league, and FOX SportsNet Minnesota filed suit), it was a defining moment for Pohlad.
However, his final mark on the Twins will be the new open-air stadium, long sought after by the Twins, and MLB. Now well under construction, the new $522 million stadium will be open in 2011, funded almost entirely with public funds. Hennepin County is providing $353 million (68 percent) of the cost by issuing 30-year tax-exempt county bonds, payable from a countywide .15-percent sales tax (which excludes groceries, clothing and medical costs). (see artist renderings and details on Target Field, the Twins new stadium).
Pohlad is survived by his sons James, Robert, and William. His wife Eloise, who he met on a blind date and married in 1947, died in 2003.
James, Robert, and William Pohlad released the following statement:
Earlier today, our father, Carl Pohlad, passed away at his home in Edina. All of us, along with our wives, many of his grandchildren and caregivers were with him when he died, as we had been for many days.
Carl was the leader of our family as well as the founder and leader of our family businesses. We’ve loved and respected him and are enormously proud of his accomplishments. And we will all miss him deeply.
We greatly appreciate the support and prayers of our friends, colleagues and the community. We especially appreciate the support of our employees throughout the Pohlad family of companies at this difficult time. We want to assure everyone that we will continue Dad’s work and his legacy – just as he would have wanted and as he has prepared us to do.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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