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McCourt to bid for Red Sox

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 8/2/2001

South Boston developer Frank McCourt, who has been touting his waterfront property as a possible site for a new Fenway Park, is entering the bidding war for the Boston Red Sox.

McCourt, whose family once owned a piece of the Boston Braves, declined to say whether he has partners in his quest to purchase the Red Sox.

However, the 47-year-old McCourt said yesterday that he'd like to become the controlling partner of the team and use 10 of the roughly 25 acres of waterfront land he owns in South Boston to build a new ballpark.

''Clearly the land is much more valuable for full-time commercial and residential development,'' McCourt said in an interview yesterday. ''So the only rationale that would motivate us to take on a less profitable ballpark project would be if it was fused with a controlling interest in the team.''

Before he can obtain the team's confidential financial records and become the seventh bidder in the Red Sox auction, McCourt must first be cleared by Major League Baseball. He is expected to submit the required lengthy application and $25,000 fee within the next few days. League officials said yesterday there is still time for parties to enter the sale process before preliminary bids are due on Aug. 15.

Saying he wanted to be respectful of Red Sox CEO John Harrington's request that bidders keep the sale process confidential, McCourt yesterday refused to discuss the details of his prospective bid. However, he noted that in the late 1800s the Boston Braves had a ballpark on the same site where he hopes to build the Red Sox's new home.

''It's a prime piece of real estate, and we have an idea about how it could be used to anchor the team in Boston,'' McCourt said. ''It's snug, but it fits.''

Skeptics, however, questioned how McCourt could afford to place a bid without deep-pocketed partners since the Yawkey Trust's 53 percent stake in the team now up for sale is expected to fetch upward of $400 million.

Nor can McCourt use the value of his land as equity in his bid since Harrington has repeatedly said the trust's controlling interest in the team will be sold on a cash-only basis.

According to several business sources, McCourt has talked with potential investors and bankers and over the past few months sounded out some people associated with the six other groups already approved to bid on Red Sox.

But it's unclear how McCourt could parlay his land into a majority ownership stake in the team unless he also invested a substantial portion of the cash needed to buy the team - or partnered with an investor interested only in the ballpark concessions business and lucrative media interests. In addition to the team, the sale of the Red Sox includes Fenway Park and a controlling interest in the New England Sports Network.

As trustee of the Jean Yawkey Trust, Harrington has a fiduciary responsibility to accept the highest qualified bid, but the team's current limited partners and other league owners must approve his selection before the sale can be finalized.

Aides said McCourt finally made the decision to enter the Red Sox sweepstakes late Tuesday night after a series of meetings with South Boston community leaders.

''It's an ongoing process and we expect more community meetings, but we were encouraged to go to the next step,'' McCourt said yesterday. ''But I can't emphasize this enough: We are not going to build a ballpark here without the support of the South Boston community. That's a relationship that my family has built up over the past century and it's a core principle of how we do business here.''

McCourt has spent months promoting his ballpark plan in private meetings with political and business leaders. This week his ballpark campaign kicked into high gear as aides offered reporters a two-hour slide show detailing how his land, located next door to the federal Moakley Courthouse and Fan Pier, would take advantage of over $20 billion in federal and state-funded infrastructure improvements made to the area over the past decade.

McCourt's parcel, they noted, is within a 10-minute walk of South Station and downtown and is close to several vital transportation links including the MBTA's proposed Silver Line, and key ramps connecting the area with the Central Artery, the Massachusetts Turnpike, and the Ted Williams Tunnel.

McCourt presented his ballpark plan to both Harrington and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, but neither has publicly endorsed the proposal.

As previously reported, at least two of the other six groups approved to place a bid on the team are studying ballpark sites in the South Boston area, including land owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority, on the 20 acres of publicly owned land slated for future expansion of the new convention center, and on a parcel near the Gillette plant.

Meg Vaillancourt can be reached by e-mail at vaillancourt@globe.com.

This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 8/2/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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