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The Pittsburgh Pirates’ sale isn’t done and, Kevin McClatchy say

October 10, 1995

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The Pittsburgh Pirates’ sale isn’t done and, Kevin McClatchy says, it’s not undone, either.

McClatchy, unexpectedly meeting a stone wall of resistance from Pirates owners who had seemed eager to sell, is again trying to acquire exclusive negotiating rights to buy the team.

Wielding more political clout _ an offer of help from U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter _ but still needing more money, McClatchy held another round of meetings Monday with the Pirates’ investment bankers.

McClatchy’s effort to buy the money-losing Pirates became snagged last week when he and the 10 owners couldn’t agree on the length of exclusivity. McClatchy wants to buy a 28-day window with a $1 million cash payment, but the Pirates offered only 2 1/2 weeks.

The Pirates’ owners also want McClatchy to forfeit an additional $3 million down payment if major league baseball hasn’t approved the sale by Dec. 31. McClatchy is willing to make the payment only if it is not tied to a specific deadline.

The owners, eager to sell before the 1996 season and wary of making yet another deal that collapses, apparently are taking a hard line because they are convinced McClatchy must raise another $10 million in equity.

Despite the impasse, McClatchy is optimistic of making a deal and wonders if the owners want to start all over again with yet another prospective group.

``We’re still very far along in the process,″ McClatchy said. ``I don’t think the Pirates want to start all over again from scratch.″

The unexpected stumbling blocks, which followed two weeks of speedy negotiations, led Mayor Tom Murphy to lose his patience with the owners’ ever-changing demands and to question their willingness to make a deal.

``There is no shortfall in equity that I know of,″ Murphy said. ``Overall, I think we’re moving forward to resolve the remaining issues with Kevin McClatchy, which are few, actually.″

Specter, R-Pa., had never met McClatchy, a California newspaper heir, until the two were introduced Monday by Murphy at an unlikely site: the Allegheny County Jail. Specter was in town to tour the jail, and McClatchy stopped by before meeting with the investment bankers.

Specter promised to try to persuade major league owners to quickly approve any McClatchy would make with the Pirates.

``If he has any trouble, I told him to call me, and I’ll call them,″ Specter said. ``We don’t want to see the Pirates move out of Pittsburgh, and we’re really going to hold (the owners’) feet to the fire on this.″

Specter sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has passed legislation to partially strip baseball of its antitrust exemption. The full Senate hasn’t taken up the bill, and Specter has promised to reopen the hearings should baseball owners allow the Pirates to leave Pittsburgh.

``If baseball wants to continue with its special treatment under the antitrust exemption, they’ve got to work it out through salary caps or revenue sharing to help us keep the Pirates here,″ Specter said.

Other groups have expressed interest in the Pirates, including several that would move the team elsewhere. Another group, led by previously rejected buyer John Rigas and Pittsburgh Penguins chairman Howard Baldwin, plans to make another pitch only if the McClatchy bid fails.

According to sources close to the Pirates, their joint bid likely would be assisted by a third investor interested in developing property near a new, baseball-only stadium. Murphy and Gov. Tom Ridge plan to form a committee that would explore how to fund the stadium and where to build it once the Pirates are sold.

McClatchy said he is focusing his attention on his own bid and is presently not concerned about those from prospective rivals.

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