The media blitz has begun. The Trib’s Joe Stiglich references a feature piece in the December issue of San Francisco Magazine. In it, writer Steve Kettmann, a San Jose native who spent a few years as the A’s beat writer, gets the clearest statements yet from Wolff and more surprisingly, “silent” partner John Fisher. One of the Fisher quotes takes another prominent sports media personality to task:
Fisher and Wolff are a generation apart, but Fisher told me that he considers Wolff “a tremendous partner and friend, who, while he values my input, is the final decision-maker and has been from the beginning-despite what [Chronicle columnist] Ray Ratto may write.
Later, Wolff describes how he came to be involved with (and later own) the A’s:
So 40-plus years later, during the 2002 World Series, (Selig) tracked down Wolff in Paris and asked him to one of the Giants-Angels games. To get there, Wolff enjoyed the first of many police-escorted trips with the commissioner. They traveled from the Mark Hopkins Hotel to PacBell Park. Then, during the game, Selig asked Wolff if he had any interest in talking to the A’s owners, Hofmann and Schott.
“Lewie, would you be interested in buying the interest of one of the partners in the A’s?” Selig asked.
“I thought my role, if I bought in, might be to work on the venue and have a little fun,” Wolff told me.
Soon enough, while investigating the idea, Wolff got a call from John Fisher, with whom he had been a co-investor in hotels such as the Carlyle in New York, the San Jose Fairmont, and the San Francisco Fairmont. Fisher and his father had been part owners of the Giants before largely dropping out in 1995, so Wolff asked about the idea of crossing the bay to buy out the A’s owners. “I think it was around $180 million for all of it, which required about $100 million in cash,” Wolff told me. That was too rich for Wolff’s blood, so “I said to John, ‘I’ll just take a small piece, and I’ll run it. Whatever you want.’ So John called back and said, ‘If you’ll buy 10 percent now and commit to buying another 15 percent, I’ll join you.’
“I said, ‘You know, once you ask someone to run a team, they can’t be removed easily, unless I kill someone or something. So are you sure?’ And John said, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve known you a long time.’ “
Wolff told me he now has $15 million invested. “This is a significant investment for me, and it’s not chump change. I think my ownership position is as large as Peter Magowan’s was in the Giants.”
While it may seem like the backstory is the focus of the article, it is just backstory. Still, I put it out there for emphasis. The idea that the ownership situation was ever in flux since the Wolff/Fisher group took control was and is patently absurd. The real thrust of the piece is San Jose, San Jose, San Jose. And no, the fact that it’s in San Francisco magazine is not accidental.
There’s a lot more, including a sadly humorous anecdote about the Coliseum from Billy Beane and Sandy Alderson commenting on territorial rights. It’s definitely a worthwhile read, so head out to your local newsstand/bookstore/library to check it out.