This Time, John Henry Takes To WEEI To Refute Rumors

A FOX Business story by Charlie Gasparino reported this morning that the owners of the Red Sox were considering selling the team, saying that the team has even begun shopping the club to potential buyers.

Principal owner John W. Henry quickly issued denials and then took to the airwaves to adamantly deny that the franchise is for sale and to emphasize that he and his partners plan on being here for a long time.

Unlike last October, when Henry stormed into the offices of 98.5 The Sports Hub to confront Felger and Mazz about things they were saying on their show, this time Henry called the flagship station of the Red Sox, WEEI.

Henry called into WEEI’s Mut and Merloni show this afternoon, and among other things, stated that Larry Lucchino has signed a contract extension and will be back with the Red Sox in 2013. Earlier in the show, Gasparino had been a guest to talk about his report and his sourcing.

Audio for the segment has not yet been posted, but when it is, I’ll put the link here.

Edit 2:39pm: The audio is now posted on WEEI.com.

 

  • bsmfan

    Charlie just appeared on F+M as well. Without turning this into a debate on if you like a network or not (seriously), Charlie is one of the good ones out there. I’ve followed him for years and he’s not some guy who randomly publishes stuff, in a field he obviously doesn’t cover, to get some pub.

    Basically, Mazz asked him how serious this was versus when there was a rumor of Hank trying to sell the Yankees. His quote was more or less “this story has a lot more legs than the Yankee story.” Moreover, as he said many times, he’s NOT a sportsbiz guy; he is not a different form of Darren Rovell. So, given his sources (he’s linked in on Wall Street), one of the friends of the whole investment part of FSV/Henry’s op must have told him this. They also asked him on “is this a typical response?” and he alluded to there being many better responses when owners have denied this. He also added that, “when any team sells off such large assets, it’s a sign of things not going well.” Without being close to any operation and having intimate knowledge, you can never know anything about the books.

    So, on “should we take this seriously?” I’d say yes.

    • Winning_Again

      Yay, another year of Larry Lucchino interviews from the broom closet in John Henry’s dungeon.

  • Winning_Again

    I haven’t heard the interview on WEEI with JH so I’m looking for the easy way out because M&M bore me to tears. Did they ask legit questions? Were the questions tough? Say what you want about F&M, but I do think they conduct a tough interview. Granted they may go over the top with the contrarian style, but in this case the fan base is still angry with ownership. I think we appreciate putting tough questions at these owners. My question is did M&M do just that. Knowing how interviews typically go at WEEI, let’s just say I’m skeptical.

    • Winning_Again

      Side note: Did they open the interview with JH with a softball question? Something like “so john, the yankees are in town…….what do you think?”

      • mandb97

        Well played winning. As whinny as Fred Toucher is, Matt Perrault showed why he was removed from WEEI’s Sports Saturday as host only three weeks in.

  • whitey b

    It’s on Fox, OK? So we know it MUST be true…

    *eye roll*

  • Linda Austin

    Went to the WEEI website and listened to the interview. Nice job by Mut and Merloni. Was so refreshing to hear an interview that was not all about the hosts. A foreign concept for Felger and Tony Epstein.
    Having heard the strong denial from John Henry no doubt in my mind the Sox are not for sale. Good news!
    They’ve made their mistakes but all in all this has been a terrific ownership group.

  • latetodinner

    A few quick thoughts.

    - So are we all agreed that Larry Lucchino is an employee and not an owner. Good.

    - There is no doubt in my mind after hearing the denial that the Red Sox are for sale. It was a pretty elaborate explanation that if true…just an evaluation for estate planning…never would have gotten out. Its fine that JH wants to keep his business private…but as is the working MO over on Yawkey way…the fans are treated as ignorant backwards hicks who can’t be trusted with an honest straightforward answer so let’s feed them pablum…they will eat it…they will eat anything.

    - Will the Sox be sold…who knows…if Paul Fireman offered $2 bill in cash I think they would be sold tomorrow. If the bids are around $1.2 bill then I don’t think they are in any rush to sell. I also think the FSG would try and sell the team but not NESN if they could. What I do think is that JH’s call proved to me, at least, that Sox ownership is not passionate about baseball. They are focused on something other than the team.

    - To echo bsmfan, Charlie G is one of my favorite reads. I see no reason to question his veracity, and after listening to JH’s “denial” I think Charlie’s story was pretty accurate. Now we will see if any of the local guys are able to keep on top of the story and pursue it. It will be an interesting offseason.

    • bsmfan

      Most likely, as continuation of his service to the Red Sox, he most likely has “B shares”. These are obviously spelled out in the pact/agreement of FSV/Red Sox. Obviously, they come with restrictions which most likely include 0 voting rights, last on a pro-rata dist on any sell, etc. I thought most execs would wind up with something like this? Again, we’re not inside and have no clue of the structure or if he owns anything at all. It’s not an annuity, so it wouldn’t appear on his IRS filings.

      On your second point, the best refutation “explanation” came from a caller on F+M. Remember when Henry barged into the studios and basically said that Linda would be an “owner” but hinted at it being a limited role (I assume the partners/others would take over) if something happened. It’s a question that must be asked. I’m going to assume that MLB also mandates that there is a plan for each team if, God forbid, the worst happens and you have a plane go down or something horrible happen. So, this “estate planning” explaination? garbage. They already did this and I assume would have to have it in place the day they bought the team and inform MLB of any “changes”.

      Last point: I put this because people see Fox News and assume the worst. Listen, if you’re that biased, just stop. Really, just stop. The guy is considered one of the best insiders on Wall Street and if someone thinks this is “Fox picking on the Red Sox because they’re liberals” .. you have some serious issues here. This has nothing to do with politics. I don’t care what your beliefs are or who you vote for. Go look up Charlie’s record on stuff he’s broken and he’s as credible as they come. As he pointed out, he gets paid nothing extra nor could even care about Sports in his line of work. The guy rarely/barely reports on it, and this isn’t some foray for him to get hired by ESPN or something to be the next Darren Rovell.

      On that, I’m going to speculate how it happened: FSV called up some pals at Morgan/GS and basically sanctioned an internal valuation. By sanctioned, it means they dispatched some of their top associates/team on the job. When doing this type of thing, an iBanker will normally/usually ask for what reasons. Obviously, getting an estate praised for surrogate purposes/will probation is one thing. Another purpose is, which most likely triggered the chatter, an actual sale. Knowing that this would get out (or hoping it would not), is part of the gig because of how big the team is. Given how connected he is in there, with all the hoopla around the Dodger sale and how big sales of any franchise are, someone said something and we have this story. Maybe there is a buyer or maybe not. However, the news with the Fed today also is rather inviting for foreign ownership who would not be paying in dollars (if you don’t care, I understand, but this matters because of the dollar being lower for any foreign buyer.) A caller also suggested that the group who came in 2nd to FSV to buy Liverpool, a large Chinese investment firm, could be on the horizon. I’ve yet to research this but I’m not sure how MLB would react to potential foreign ownership of a team. Remember, the owners have the power to say yes/no to anyone or anything.

      And, as you said, it would be interesting to see where the next news on this comes from. I’d assume that this was a “hey make us an offer and we might listen” type of signal, so it could be a bit.

      • latetodinner

        My comments about Larry’s ownership position came from two things that we heard yesterday and which I was arguing last week. 1) Tony Mazz stated unequivocally that Larry to the best of his knowledge had no ownership stake and that he was a contract employee. 2) John Henry said on WEEI that Larry signed his contract and will be with the team next year. Felger commented on this point specifically noting that there was something funny about Larry’s situation. Perhaps he was on a year to year contract, perhaps it was something else. The more I hear and research the less likely I think it is that he has any shares. I think all of the class B shares were retired when they bought out the limited owners (Les Otten and Company). I could be wrong because obviously none of us have access to the private books but as I stated last week it is wrong to call Larry an “owner” of the Red Sox. Just speculating but if I had to guess Larry has some protection in his contract if the team is sold whereby he gets money “as if” he held x shares. But that is just a guess.
        As for the rest of it…you are right on as usual. Think your supposition as to what happened is probably accurate. However we might differ on why the evaluation took place. My bet is someone called and said they were interested…what would it take. Otherwise I see no reason for them to be going through the exercise unless they want to put the team up for bid and based on what they are saying I don’t see that as their objective. On Dakota’s observation of a Chinese company becoming a partner….Nintendo was a partner in the Mariners for a long while. It is not without precedence … however there is a difference between letting Nintendo own part of the Mariners and a foreign entity owning part of the Red Sox. Having said that…Foreigners own both Liverpool and Man U…so who knows what money can actually buy.

        • bsmfan

          Agree here. We know what we don’t know, and going any further with the conjecture just gets into too many unknown unknowns..

          I wondered if the GMs are fed B’s as some type of bonus gift. I wasn’t able to find anything but also realize that next to Manchester United’s IPO (a whole different topic in itself), none of these companies are public nor do we really know much about the finances, except for when Deadspin got copies of two MLB team’s finances.

          One spin on this for the media: When are most clubs sold and does a first or last place team change the valuation of it? Of course, a winning team = more money, but what if they are in a situation like the Sox were pre-Punto trade? What if they’re like the Yankees now where they have 150m/yr or whatever tied up on aging superstars? Do today’s owners prefer a team that isn’t in first place so they can come in and put their own finish on the club?

          This, above, seems to be the topic de jour today.

        • whitey b

          Performance of team has little to no bearing on the valuation. The market, existing or potential TV deals, other property assets, free cash flow history, and existing debt are major factors. See Cubs, Chicago.

        • whitey b

          Again, Lucchino is listed on the masthead as an owner AND John Henry has repeatedly included LL’s name when referring to “the owners.”

          http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/fenwaypark100/own.jsp?year=2002_present

          The contract is for his services as CEO. That’s an entirely different thing. Please stop confusing the two.

          I would never confuse Tony Mazz with a person who cares about accuracy.

        • latetodinner

          I am willing to be wrong on this…but I don’t think I am. I have spoken to several people in the “know who say Larry has no ownership stake and did not put up any money when the team was bought. Perhaps he was given some in exchange for sweat equity. The contract talk is for CEO which I am not confusing…however if he were an owner on par with Warner and Henry then I would see no reason to ever have to announce a contract was resigned…it would be a position in perpetuity.

        • whitey b

          “it would be a position in perpetuity.”
          Not so. See McCourt, Jamie.

        • latetodinner

          So there is hope for a divorce. Whitey you are the best! Thanks.

        • whitey b

          I do what I can. Now maybe you can do ME a favor…

    • whitey b

      Where do you get the “not passionate about baseball” stuff? They go to almost every home game, they speak up about the team all the time, they are consistently looking to improve it (whether those moves work or not) … Henry isn’t an over-the-top kind of guy. Expecting him to throw a hissy like George Steinbrenner every time he doesn’t get his way is just foolish.

      By comparison, Peter Angelos stopped going to Orioles games years ago, and that’s the only team he owns, yet no one questions his commitment.

      It’s one thing to have a bad year — which, btw, is exactly what Theo said would happen and everyone howled then too. It’s another thing to throw the baby out with the bath water. This management group has been as good as any in baseball. Time to start appreciating what we have. Tom Yawkey is dead, and thank god for that.

      • latetodinner

        I think Peter Angelos sucks as an owner and I have pitied Baltimore fans ever since that scam artist bought the team out of Asbestos blood money. I think JH and team are not passionate about baseball. I think they are passionate about numbers. There is a difference. As such his unwillingness to appear contrite or genuine comes across as a lack of passion. As such I do not think he cares correctly about the team on the field…other than how it effects his bottom line. I don’t think he feels genuine joy when he is at the ball park watching a game.

        • whitey b

          Hmmm…I get a completely different feeling. I think your are mistaking expression for emotion. These aren’t a bunch of hyper-expressive Mark Cubans. Still, I often see the owners high-fiving and making fist pumps … just not so much this season (but you may have noticed there hasn’t been much to high-five about). And I haven’t the slightest idea what John Henry has to be contrite about. They’ve won two WS, whereas the previous 80 years worth of owners won none. And he’s spent over a billion dollars in the past 7 years on salaries alone. What the hell more can he reasonably be expected to do? Walk on water across the Charles River?

  • whitey b

    Dear Eric Wilbur: Against all odds, you have superseded Felcher, er, Felger as the town’s biggest douche.

    P.S. What kind of pig’s name is Wilbur, anyway?