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Owners Approve Revenue Sharing

March 22, 1996

PHOENIX (AP) _ Baseball owners approved a revenue-sharing plan Thursday that would give some small-market teams an additional $4 million this season if the players’ association agrees.

Owners approved the plan 26-1-1, with the New York Mets voting against it and the Baltimore Orioles abstaining. Management negotiators were to present the proposal to the union at a bargaining session in Phoenix on Thursday night, but prospects for player approval were unclear.

``Revenue sharing, if nothing else, has become part of the way we live, part and parcel of our business,″ acting commissioner Bud Selig said.

To gain approval, owners agreed to decrease the maximum to be paid by high-revenue teams. The New York Yankees, who would have had to contribute about $7.25 million under the plan discussed before the meeting, would pay about $5.9 million under the proposal owners adopted.

Under the current system, the Yankees pay about $3 million per season.

Cleveland, Baltimore and Atlanta would give the next-highest amounts behind the Yankees, one source said, speaking on the condition he not be identified.

Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Montreal and San Diego would receive the most.

``I think the small-market clubs will be the first to tell you this will help them,″ NL president Len Coleman said.

New York Mets president Fred Wilpon and Orioles owner Peter Angelos spoke out against the plan, according to several sources, saying that while they agreed with increased revenue sharing they thought it should start only after a new collective bargaining agreement with the union.

Owners adopted the plan on a two-year interim basis, with the amount of revenue shared _ about $39 million in 1996 _ at 60 percent of the level owners eventually contemplate. Teams would contribute 22 percent of their ticket, local broadcasting and stadium revenue after various deductions for expenses.

NL teams currently give just 72 cents from each ticket over $1 to the visiting team, and 25 percent of the cable money from that game. AL teams give 20 percent of their ticket money to the visiting team and place 20 percent of their cable money in a pool that is split among the clubs.

A final revenue sharing plan would be part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Owners began their revenue-sharing discussions at an acrimonious meeting in Kohler, Wis., in August 1993. The following January at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., they unanimously adopted a plan but made it contingent on players agreeing to a salary cap _ which never happened.

``There aren’t that many conditions this time,″ Selig said.

As part of the revenue sharing plan, owners also approved an extension on their internal broadcasting agreements. The Florida Marlins and several other teams threatened to block local broadcasts if there wasn’t a revenue-sharing deal.

To get the agreement, the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs agreed to make superstation payments above the 1993 level, which was about $13 million for the Braves (WTBS) and $5 million for the Cubs (WGN).

Selig, according to several sources, hasn’t set the exact figure. The Braves and Cubs agreed to go along to secure industry peace, several sources said, even though superstation ratings and revenue have decreased as the cable audience has fragmented.

Part of the superstation money would be used to decrease the revenue-sharing payments of large-market clubs, one source said. But if there is a collective bargaining agreement, the difference would be made up by the 2.5 percent payroll tax that has been proposed.

Owners also gave their unanimous approval to the $150 million sale of the St. Louis Cardinals from Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. to the group headed by William DeWitt Jr.

And they endorsed a preliminary report by Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane that they hope will lead to savings in their minor league operations.

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