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Pirates Lose Major Investor

August 8, 1996

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Frank Fuhrer, a wealthy beer distributor who nearly left the Pittsburgh Pirates’ ownership group even before the deal was completed in February, has pulled his estimated $7.5 million investment.

Managing general partner Kevin McClatchy said Wednesday night that Fuhrer’s pullout wasn’t unexpected, and other investors will cover Fuhrer’s ownership stake.

McClatchy, whose family owns a newspaper chain, and Wheeling, W.Va.-based newspaper publisher G. Ogden Nutting are expected to increase their stakes in the 110-year-old franchise. McClatchy, the group’s largest investor, already has invested an estimated $12 million.

McClatchy’s group, which includes nearly 20 partners, bought the Pirates from a public-private partnership on Feb. 14 for about $90 million. The often-tenuous deal took nearly eight months to complete.

Fuhrer, who once ran a World Team Tennis franchise in Pittsburgh, was one of McClatchy’s major investors and his involvement was crucial in completing a deal that nearly collapsed several times.

``It’s really a good thing what he did for Pittsburgh by stepping up when he did,″ McClatchy said following the Pirates’ 12-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. ``But we knew it (the investment) was temporary.″

The impact of Fuhrer’s pullout is far less significant than it would have been in January or February, when such a decision might have wrecked the purchase.

``He wanted to get out, and we had the means to get him out,″ McClatchy said. ``We’re OK. This feels a lot different than it would have then. Frank definitely helped the Pirates by coming in when he did.″

Fuhrer was initially one of five general partners who contributed $5 million to the deal. He later increased his stake after several proposed investors pulled out.

He considered pulling his stake last January, or about the same time Pittsburgh metals buyer Bill Snyder yanked his $5 million investment in a dispute over control.

According to Snyder, McClatchy originally told the investors they would have a say in day-to-day operations, only to retract the statement after major league baseball ordered that one partner be responsible for such decisions.

Snyder charged McClatchy withheld that information from the investors for weeks, and Fuhrer also privately expressed reservations about the arrangement. But, unlike Snyder, he kept his stake, and the deal finally was completed.

``Frank’s money acted as a bridge ... but we knew it was not a permanent investment,″ McClatchy said.

Fuhrer, whose Budweiser beer distributorship is one of the largest in Pennsylvania, was not available for comment.

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