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McClatchy: Pirates Not in Financial Trouble

August 9, 1996

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to lose money, but not as much as before and should begin turning the corner financially next season, managing general partner Kevin McClatchy said.

``I remember when Jimmy Johnson took over the Dallas Cowboys, he said, `Give me five years and we’ll get to the Super Bowl.‴ McClatchy said. ``I’m not saying we’ll get to the World Series in five years, but I’ll think we’ll contend. But it is not going to change overnight.″

McClatchy held a news conference Thursday to refute former partner Frank Fuhrer’s allegations the team may lose $15 million this season, or only $2 million less than in 1995.

McClatchy estimates the losses at $7 million to $8 million, about twice his initial projections. The losses wouldn’t be so severe if the franchise sale hadn’t been delayed until February, halting a planned season ticket-selling campaign, he said.

Fuhrer said he withdrew his $5 million investment over concerns the Pirates no longer can make it financially in Pittsburgh and may not get the new stadium they need.

However, Pirates executives have known for months that Fuhrer, who has been involved in a variety of pro sports investments, wasn’t happy being a silent partner in McClatchy’s group and would likely leave.

Fuhrer nearly pulled out in January, even before the deal was completed, in a dispute over day-to-day operations. He stayed in only after other investors convinced him a last-minute pullout might cause the sale to unravel.

``There was a clear understanding that Frank’s investment was a bridge gap so the Pirates would stay in Pittsburgh,″ McClatchy said. ``We knew all along that Frank would get out.″

Even before Fuhrer pulled out, McClatchy lined up newspaper publisher G. Ogden Nutting of Wheeling, W.Va., as a replacement investor.

``He (Fuhrer) is one investor out of 20-plus investors,″ McClatchy said. ``I think most of the others (investors) are very happy with their investment.″

The Pirates have lost more than $60 million since 1990 and were saved from possible relocation only when McClatchy raised $90 million to buy the century-old franchise. The deal was completed Feb. 14 following eight months of often-tenuous negotiations.

``What’s important to remember is we didn’t take over the Chicago Bulls, we took over a team that was losing a tremendous amount of money,″ McClatchy said. ``This is only Year One for us ... last year we were last in the league, last in attendance, last in everything. It’s not going to change overnight.″

Still, McClatchy said, the Pirates will hike attendance from about 900,000 to 1.4 million, the seventh largest increase in the majors, and their revenues will jump from $25 million to $40 million. TV ratings are up about 30 percent.

``Last year, we were going in the wrong direction,″ he said. ``These numbers tell me we’re going in the right direction.″

National League president Len Coleman will meet with McClatchy within a week to discuss the former Sacramento, Calif., businessman’s first year of ownership, but the meeting did not result from Fuhrer’s comments.

Coleman may discuss the private agreements McClatchy had with Fuhrer and two other investors in which he promised to cover their investments, but only after the sale was completed.

``This franchise was in danger of leaving Pittsburgh,″ McClatchy said. ``Side deals were made with me at the 11th hour when we needed that person’s money in. Trust me, if we hadn’t needed to make side deals, we would not have made them.″

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