Peter Guber talks to Tierney & Davis

Warriors co-owner Peter Guber went on The Drive yesterday, and the 20-minute interview that came out of it was the most entertaining bit of owner-speak I’ve heard in a long time. Guber is not like most co-owners, sitting in silence. He’s a Hollywood producer with showmanship befitting the town. A big-money player may work as the managing partner, whereas Guber appears to have a running mate-like role, selling the team’s concepts and working over the media. Joe Lacob, like Lew Wolff, has had some difficulty establishing a rapport with the local media and fans. For Guber this is old hat. However, Guber is taking on a similar role with the Dodgers, one that will take just as much effort if not more, so I can see why he wouldn’t be a managing partner of any one team.

Guber explained the process of selecting a San Francisco site, why Oakland was passed over (which will fall on deaf ears in the East Bay, I figure) and his history of ownership stints dating back to Mandalay Sports Entertainment, a conglomerate of minor league franchises including the model minor league team, the Dayton Dragons. Curiously, he considered the Warriors the only Northern California NBA franchise, a clear indicator that the Maloof family is more than one-foot-out-the-door in Sacramento. He even got in a little shot at the Maloofs:

GUBER: We believe – it’s a belief – that we’re going to turn it [the arena] into reality. We believe we can accomplish it. If we didn’t believe it, why would I take the energy and resources in the third act of my life and put it into something I thought was folly? No. All of us believe – Joe [Lacob], the different owners of the group, there’s a large group of intelligent owners – believe this is a beautiful, successful endeavor that we can bring to fruition. If we didn’t, I would go play poker in Las Vegas.

TIERNEY: Which casino by the way?

GUBER: Let me put it this way. Not. The Palms.

Guber went on to talk about how Larry Baer brought the Lacob-Guber team in to buy the Warriors. Guber indicated that Baer could have ended up as part of the ownership group, but dropped out during the process.

GUBER: When Larry Baer – yes, Larry Baer – called me at home in Los Angeles and said, “How would you like to buy the Warriors?” I said, “Great!” It fit my compass. I wanted to be able to get to a place within an hour, that I could go there regularly and be part of the community. Before, I had worked with Bob Piccinini to buy the Oakland A’s. In fact, closed the deal, made the deal with Billy Beane at my house, gave him a piece of the equity, negotiated the whole thing. Then, lo and behold, Bud Selig said “we’re going to do contractions” back in 2002 or 2004. “Let’s do contraction!” You know what contraction is? Not the same as what women have before they have a baby. This is what the league said they wanted to do with the teams. They wanted to get rid of Oakland and Minnesota. Ultimately, they made a deal with Lew Wolff about a year later. My partner (Lacob) went after that team as well. So Larry Baer said, “Let’s try to get the Warriors.” We went after the Warriors. Larry dropped out. Joe and I teamed up to buy the Warriors.

There’s a problem in Guber’s timeline. The contraction threat came with the 2002 CBA negotiations, which were the greatest threat for a work-stoppage since 1994-95. Contraction talk had started in 1999, and dragged on contentiously until August 30, 2002, when a deal was put in place that pushed out the contraction threat to 2006. The 2006 deadline passed without a peep, and contraction hasn’t come up in any substantive discussions since. The new CBA, which was finally made publicly available today, has language that the league won’t talk contraction until after the CBA expires in 2016. I digress.

Again, Guber talked 2002. But the Dolich-Piccinini group was knocked out in 1999, not 2002, a fact confirmed by Piccinini himself. Either the group was kept in play until 2002 as Guber said, or he has his dates mixed up. Piccinini is now also a part of the Warriors’ ownership group. He was also part of Jeff Moorad’s failed bid to buy the Padres. From the looks of things, Larry Baer was very active in getting the group as far away from the A’s as possible. Contraction died, which foiled the Giants’ attempt to get rid of the A’s via subterfuge. Now there’s simply no economic justification for it, and the price to contract two teams (estimated $1 billion) is too high for the owners and MLB to swallow.

The only question I have coming out of this is one I’ve had for the last few weeks: Why on earth is the City of Oakland working with the Giants and Larry Baer? Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said yesterday that he is looking at the A’s situation closely, with Sacramento potentially there if something can’t be done in the Bay Area. Guess who’d love it if the A’s had no choice but to leave the Bay Area? Larry Baer.

Update 8:47 PM – Guber was referring to the “secret” 2001-02 negotiations done by his group, Mandalay, and Steve Schott. The group also included Bob Piccinini, which I was not aware of until the interview. At the time, Schott was pushing for a move to Santa Clara and was in discussions with the City Council. Because of the sale talks, the Council felt betrayed and terminated any further pre-development work. The ownership would have included, among others: Guber, Piccinini, Paul Schaeffer (Mandalay VP), and Billy Beane. It’s difficult to keep these ownership groups straight. 

59 thoughts on “Peter Guber talks to Tierney & Davis

  1. My question is why Lew and Fisher are still waiting ? What are they waiting for? Are they hoping or just praying that BS abd MLB will allow them to move to SJ ? or maybe Lew and Fisher have been told privately by BS that they will be allowed to move to SJ after this season or some time next year ?

    Sure the A’s are not losing money while staying in Oakland but can they wait for 3 or 4 more years ?

  2. daniel, what do they have to lose by waiting? By all accounts they’re breaking even at worst on the team’s day to day ops thanks to revenue sharing. And every year they sit on the team is another year it increases in value. Sure the fanbase is in disarray, but frankly why would they care? The A’s are worth alot more today than they were when Wolff and Fisher bought them in 2007. And they’ll be worth more next year. Even if nothing develops and they never move to San Jose, Wolff still wins.

  3. So this week the Oakland Kings speculation started and so did the Sacramento A’s (and that on top of the eminent return of the San Francisco Warriors and the San Francisco 49ers moving to Santa Clara…). Strange times we’re living in.

  4. Dan, all that may be true, but Wolff isn’t getting any younger and he may want to see this done in his lifetime. There’s no guarantees that space will always be there in SJ. There’s no guarantees the cost to build the stadium won’t go up to a point where just building it will no longer be profitable. There’s not even a real guarantee they continue to turn a profit either. He’s likely looking at an increase in rent in Oakland and the revenue sharing check isn’t a guaranteed amount. He can probably wait it out another few years but a lot can happen in that time.

  5. baer is a snake, rat and a weasel combined. i can’t think of another person that i despise this badly. i don’t wish bodily/physical harm to many but if something were to happen to him i wouldn’t shed a tear.

  6. I wouldn’t mind the “Sacramento A’s” one single bit. However, I am a realist and I’m acutely aware that Sacramento probably lacks the kind of corporate base to make an MLB team not be on revenue sharing, profitable on its own, and competitive.
    One things for sure, I’m sick of all this nonsense – Selig being spineless and indecisive, Baer being a total rat-f%$# b@stard with his subterfuge, Wolff sitting on profit no matter what happens, and an aggravated fan base that is being alienated and torn apart. It just sucks.
    With this, I hope KJ makes a big play, and includes elements of the deal for the Kings Arena (now defunct because the Magoofs are essentially broke), plus AEG (who are very interested in having a Nor Cal presence) to lure Wolff/Fisher, who aren’t broke at all and desperately need a new stadium. It could make financial sense to them, because they’d be getting substantial monetary help (not having to finance it entirely themselves). With this, it could be economically viable.

  7. I wish the A’s had a Larry Baer. Man that guy protects his nest. Cant say the same for Lew Wolff, he’ll tip the whole nest over in awkward attempt to move to a new branch.

  8. Lew Wolff, sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting time. Your time and my time.

  9. @Jesse–sitting on the dock because Oakland does not have a ship that will sail….on San Jose does-

  10. Amazing how baer has used quan as a pawn during this whole exercise–while he buddies up with her to keep the A’s from SJ he was working to steal the W’s to SF…and by keeping the A’s out of SJ she will have helped to force them out of the area—what a legacy…what a fool…

  11. At this point, I’m pretty sure Lew Wolff won’t sell if only to ensure that nothing of the A’s ever sets foot in Oakland again. Think about it – the mayor of his supposed home city meets with his business competition to sabotage his plans, and then turns around and has her associates say he should stay in Oakland. Maybe I’m a spiteful person, but if I’m Wolff, Oakland would need to pry the A’s out of my cold dead hands.

  12. I wonder if a day will ever come that this blog runs a story that is not immediately flooded with rants about the evil nature of the San Francisco Giants, the cowardly character of Bud Selig, and the fundamental stupidity of Oakland politicians.

  13. @tps – I wonder if you’ll ever have a comment anywhere that isn’t full of vitriol about A’s ownership.

  14. The very possibility of a franchise that’s 100 years old and is 3rd all-time in WS wins could be contracted just illustrates how backwards and inept the economic situation in MLB is.
    Hasn’t the consensus been that Sacramento could not work for the A’s because it is even weaker than the East Bay in terms of corporation strength? When is Knauss sitting down with Wolff?

  15. ….better question: when is Oakland going to get serious about the A’s. Waiting……

  16. Sacto’s small (2.3 mil. metropolitan pop.) is the problem. Several MLB cities (KC, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, etc.) are similiar small-sized fanbase cities which are struggling and need payments from MLB’s revenue sharing to stay profitable. The Sacramento region – along with the similiar small-market cities (KC, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Portland, Las Vegas, San Antonio, etc.) also do not enjoy a large television cable subscriber base. Television rights income is a huge source of reveune for MLB clubs (the Yankees, for example, earn $300 mil. annually from their tv rights contract – and could charge zero admission and still be profitable.) The Texas Rangers are earning $80 mil. yearly with their cable-rights deal, and will soon begin raking $150 mil. a year. Small market teams make much less – Kansas City earns only $18 mil. with tv revenue, the Milwaukee Brewers only $12 mil. and Cleveland only $30 mil. Possible new A’s locations frequently mentioned(Portland, San Antonio, Vegas) would offer similiarly small ($12 – $30 mil.) television revenue. The A’s will not make a move to any of these small-time cities.

  17. Ha, Oakland-only crowd loves to go on and on about how the Piccinini group would’ve kept the A’s in Oakland for eternity… well, Guber was a part of that bid and he did everything he could to move the W’s out. No doubt he’d be pushing for SJ right about now- check that, he wouldn’t be pushing it because the A’s would already be in SJ.

  18. So, I guess the answer is, “Don’t hold your breath.”

    And yes ML, when I spend $300 to take my family to an A’s game, I do evaluate the quality of the product I get in return for my hard-earned cash. I was not always this critical of Wolff-Fisher, and as soon as people around here quit working double time to shift their obvious failures onto others, I’ll be a little less irked about the issue and not so bristly, k?

  19. Black? Naw. Giants colors. We all A’s fans up in here. It’s “the pot calling the grass green.”

  20. I think ML has covered it before, but I think Sacramento could be a viable option, especially if the Kings leave. Sacramento may not be a huge market, but that would be the home team for everyone from Redding to Fresno to Reno. The Central Valley has a lot of regional loyalty – see how Fresno State successfully branded itself as the Valley’s team. I’d just assume drive 90 minutes to Sacramento than 90 minutes to SJ. Maybe not a lot of corporate HQs in Sac, but there are a lot of lobbyists spending corporate dollars.

  21. Sac won’t work. Nothing in Sac except gov buildings. KJ is desperate bcuz the maloofs won’t sell and will take their team to LALA Land after next year. KJ needs something for his run to the governor mansion after Mr Moonbean is gone.

    It is SJ or bust or maybe sell.

  22. I think Gumby calling the grass green works a little better.

  23. Sacramento won’t be the home team all the way to Fresno, maybe they could get exclusive TV rights to that region, but it’s not like that TV Market is full of big dollars.

  24. The basic point is that if Sacramento is one team town, couldn’t it just as easily be baseball instead of basketball?

  25. Zillow has a map of % of home loans underwater and has unemployment rates
    Santa Clara: 22% homes underwater, 8.2 unemployment rate
    San Mateo: 21% homes, 6.8% unemp.
    Marin: 19% homes, 6.4% unemp
    San Francisco: 15% homes, 7.4% unemp
    Alameda: 34% homes, 8.9% unemp
    Contra Costa: 43% homes, 9.1% unemp
    Sacramento: 57% homes, 10.5% unemp
    Placer: 41% homes, 9.6% unemp.
    El Dorado: 37% homes, 10.6 unemp
    The counties from Marin to Santa Clara have lower % of home loans underwater and unemployment rates. Alameda and Contra Costa aren’t as good as the western Bay Area counties but Alameda is doing better on the home loans and unemployment than the 3 most populated Sacramento area counties. Contra Costa is doing better unemployment wise than the Sacramento area counties but not so well on the home loans.
    Conclusion: Economically the Bay Area is doing much better than the Sacramento area currently and the east and south bay counties are doing better than the easy bay counties.

  26. @Mark N: Basketball pulls in about 17k for the median teams. The Kings were 14.5k last year, 84% of capacity. Baseball needs twice that if they want to pay off a privately financed stadium, and that’s not counting the lack of corporate money in the area. So, my thought would be no, Sacramento is not big enough for an MLB team, but is passable for either NBA or NHL. Probably not both, since they overlap pretty much the whole season.

  27. @Mark N. you’re thinking about it purely from Sacramento’s perspective. That’s the problem lately with Oakland pols. How does it improve the A’s as a franchise?

  28. Sac can support the A’s. Just like they have supported the kings for 20+ years. And how they do the Rivercats now. At the same time. You can’t predict numbers until they are reality.

  29. Mayor Quan on 95.7 the game at 6:30 with Townie doing the interview. Should be good.

  30. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan scheduled to be on 95.7the game tonight (5/24/2012).

    A’s observer

  31. I know that he has been trying to interview her for at least a year.

  32. Sacramento is borderline, but it could work IF Sacto pays for all or most of a new stadium. MLB isn’t crazy about a privately financed ballpark in SJ, and they certainly aren’t going to consider that in Sacramento.
    It’s still a small market, and I doubt the A’s would be given exclusive TV rights to northern counties and the Central Valley. The Giants would probably remain the number o e team in places like Fresno and Redding. But on the other hand the A’s would have a market of their own to dominate, and could retain at least a share of their East Bay fans. Giants and A’s would probably keep their current joint TV territories, so the A’s in Sacramento might be a lot stronger than other small markets in MLB.
    But all that assumes a publicly financed stadium. Without that, MLB wouldn’t even listen.

  33. @Simon, totally agree. I made the exact same point to Townie on his show a few months ago.

  34. MLB might not be crazy about privately financed parks, but I think they’d take a relatively short term loan in exchange for long term access to all the money in SCC.
    And really, if I were the other team owners, I’d not want the Giants to have the entire Bay Area to themselves and potentially become another “superteam” to compete against.

  35. Quan isn’t a very good interviewee – maybe that’s why she’s stayed away from Townie for so long.

  36. yeah there will probably be a thread posted later tonight but wow is i just have to say about quan’s “vision”.

  37. @letsgoas: She really had nothing to say…it was actually IMPRESSIVE that she somehow lasted 15 minutes.

  38. Townsend’s show started with a question, if you were a billionaire and could buy any team, who would it be and why? After a few calls, Townsend made the joke that it’s easy to buy your favorite team, build them a stadium and make them winners when it’s fake money.
    This was the same thought I said when Quan started talking about a Dallas-like stadium for Coliseum City Complex. It’s easy to wow people with your vision when it’s not your money required to make it happen.
    The other observation I made was that she talked about how they could give the teams the land for the stadiums. Is she talking about giving them all the rest of the land to develop themselves? The land at Diridon is being sold to the A’s for essentially nothing compared to the cost of building the entire stadium. So there is no advantage to building in Oakland unless the teams are getting extra land to develop themselves.
    As far as Coliseum Complex being a better deal than SF’s waterfront? She’s thinking short-term. Long term, being in SF and having control of an arena in a city, on the water, where other event holders want to put their events is a much better deal.

  39. she was completely delusional and dancing all over the place when townsend was asking the tough questions. guess this why the city of oakland is so screwed up when you got this mayor as your figure head.

  40. @LoneStranger: As Townie just said, “I’m going to build the biggest project in the history of mankind RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR EYES!”
    It’s not happening, Ms. Quan. Please stop.


    Per SuSlu – Chuck Reed and SJ are gonna go after the antitrust exemption…HELLO San Jose Athletics!

    Enough of the pipe dream that is an oaktown baseball stadium. Focus on the Raiders and let the A’s get their new stadium in the bay area…

  42. Ok,

    Well, Townie had me thinking that it was a done deal that SuSlu had a breaking story about SJ going after the Antitrust exemption…Still, to have Mayor Reed bring it up, that is a bit of news, just not the bombshell I hoped it would be.

  43. plrraz, I’m thinking you need to read her latest article again. He’s not doing anything but waiting it out. He’s willing to go the lawsuit route if it comes to it, but he’s not acting on it now.

    • Update 8:47 PM – Guber was referring to the “secret” 2001-02 negotiations done by his group, Mandalay, and Steve Schott. The group also included Bob Piccinini, which I was not aware of until the interview. At the time, Schott was pushing for a move to Santa Clara and was in discussions with the City Council. Because of the sale talks, the Council felt betrayed and terminated any further pre-development work. The ownership would have included, among others: Guber, Piccinini, Paul Schaeffer (Mandalay VP), and Billy Beane. It’s difficult to keep these ownership groups straight. 

  44. I just heard the interview with Quan. Wow! She’s a bone head. Oakland needs new leadership. Townsend should have followed up with some tougher questions.

  45. Re Quan Interview – an inane diatribe which lacked any substantive comments or ideas. “I’m their leader, which way did they go?”

  46. 4 pro teams at Coliseum City… LaCrosse, Beach Volleyball, Croquet and WNBA?

  47. The only other teams I can think of that they could seriously go after would be either the SF Bulls, the minor league hockey team that just started in SF and plays at the Cow Palace, or some IFL (Indoor Football League) team. Maybe lacrosse, though they left SJ a couple years ago. The problem is that I don’t see them building an arena for either of these without an NHL or NBA team being the main tenant to play in it. Would MLS or NHL allow a second team in the Bay Area?
    I don’t see the Earthquakes going up there for obvious reasons, nor the Sabercats, who are owned by the founder of Fry’s Electronics. The Sharks aren’t leaving the arena they control.
    Maybe a college team of some sort? Maybe she was going to try to lure the Kings there to share with the Warriors?

  48. WNBA. Makes the most sense. Kaplan was talking about it in 2010 I believe.

  49. I just don’t see Oakland being able to build their very own LA Live (but on an even more grand scale).

  50. Well as long as Lew and Mayor Reed sue the living snot out of every private and public entity that gets in their way, I could support them. I mean, sue Oakland, sue San Francisco, sue the Giants, sue MLB, sue the United States of America, sue Don Knauss. No prisoners, baby. The A’s have gotten so boring it’s really hard to stay interested anymore. There might actually be some decent television to come out of all this.

  51. “I mean, sue Oakland, sue San Francisco, sue the Giants, sue MLB, sue the United States of America, sue Don Knauss”
    Do you stop and read your posts or is it simply — as what it appears to be — an emotional rant of hot air? I’d like to respond that the A’s and by proxy San jose have had almost inhuman patience on the matter. I’d like to respond that even BS knows the TR issue is a tenuous one at best (see his comment on Haas). I’d like to respond that SJ’s rare mention of a lawsuit is, at this point, nothing more than an attempt to push MLB toward a long awaited decision (aka a simple negotiation tactic). I’d respond that the threat of a lawsuit was also made by the Oakland Pols (a laughable one at that). But post after post from you shows you simply just want to emotionally vent without any facts getting in the way . I’d like to say all that but I suspect a reasonable response would be about as helpful as trying to explain the negatives of drinking to a face down in the gutter drunk.
    Sorry to be so pointed but you’re

  52. @TPS – i think you are a closet Gnats fan, because obviously you aren’t watching Reddick, Milone, Parker, Weeks, and Cespedes.

  53. While Quan, on the whole, sounds like a rambling idiot, she is correct when says that the land owned by the city has significant value.
    In a sense, she is proposing a development similar to what Lew Wolff was proposing earlier in the decade . . . except I am not sure what she intends to do with revenues from selling or leasing publicly owned property.
    Do the new redevelopment laws preclude the city, county or JPA from using land sales or lease payments (as opposed to tax revenue) to pay back stadium bonds?

    • @Pudgie – Nothing illegal about that. The land simply isn’t that valuable. Let’s say it could be sold for $2 million an acre, a very generous price for East Oakland industrial land. The Coliseum complex is 120 acres and is the largest publicly-owned property in Coliseum City (A & B). The whole thing would be worth $240 million, which wouldn’t be worth 1/10th of the total cost of Coliseum City. And if the point of the public land is to be competitive by having a lower site cost, it couldn’t be sold to the stadium operator/team anyway. It would have to remain free or cost little to lease. The value would have to come from entitlements, zoning changes. A developer could take cheap land, get it rezoned for residential or commercial, build on it, and realize the profits from those sales or leases. That kind of market is dead right now. To make things worse, what limits Oakland is that previously they could use future tax increment from property taxes to help fund infrastructure improvements. Nowadays that’s forbidden.

  54. TW, why take yourself so seriously? I’m sure no one else does.

    Anon, good one. That is definitely a non-boring batch of young players. But since you didn’t even mention the most exciting A’s player this year (Ryan Cook), I’m guessing you’re actually an Angels fan in real life. No wait, seriously, I think you must secretly be a Padres fans. Or maybe a Rangers fan? Hmmm. It’ll come to me eventually.

  55. @ TPS – I don’t think it will come to you anytime soon…well not without some professional help.

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