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Wrigley Done Right: The Ultimate Rooftop Experience - Click for tickets

Montreal Expos / Washington Nationals

Year Owner Franchise Cost
1969 Charles Bronfman $10 million
1991 Claude Brochu $100 million
1999 Jeffrey Loria $12 million (24%) + $18 million (70%) = $30 million (94%)
2002 MLB $120 million
2004 Forbes Magazine Franchise Value Estimate $145 million

So who owns the Expos? That is a great question that took hours of research and reading through a court case (.pdf) before I could decipher exactly who owns what.

The Montreal Expos are owned by a limited partnership, Montreal Expos L.P., which is in turn owned (I assume equally) by the other twenty nine major league baseball clubs. Further complicating the situation, limited partnerships must have a general partner which is responsible for managing the (limited) partnership.

This general partnership is named Montreal Expos GP, Inc. This is a shell corporation which allows the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball to run the team. Both Montreal Expos LP, and GP were incorporated in Delaware. Thus, in short, all twenty nine Major League Teams own the Montreal Expos, but the team is controlled by the office of the Commissioner of Baseball (OCB). (However, the OCB of course was set up and controlled by MLB owners.)

The Montreal Expos joined the Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Pilots in the 1969 baseball expansion (the Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970). At the time, Charles Bronfman of Seagrams was the first Expos owner and headed a syndicate of five owners which paid the $10 million expansion fee (source: MLB Expos Site).

In 1991, Bronfman sold the team to a limited partnership of Canadian owners. One of the limited partners (and also the general partner) was Claude Brochu. As Brochu managed to slowly dismantle the 1994 playoff caliber team, the other partners became dissatisfied with his work, and the partners developed a plan to revitalize the ballclub.

The plan called for infusing $150 million (Canadian) into the partnership by diluting existing shares and selling partial ownership. The 1991 Brochu partnership controlled the Expos until 1999, when it brought in Jeffrey Loria, an art dealer as general partner, and minority owner (24%).

According to the court case, MLB pressured the minority owners to accept Loria as General Partner before the remaining equity was raised, because the Expos did not have a suitable general partner. When Loria purchased his share, the other partners claimed that there was an agreement that there would be no capital calls for the first few years. Despite this agreement, the new partnership contract included provisions for a mandatory capital call. (A capital call is when the general partner announces that the partners must contribute money to the team in proportion to their ownership interest, or risk a dilution of their ownership interest.)

Loria immediately began a cash call, and the minority owners refused to meet it, instead attempting to buy out Loria only five months after allowing him to become managing partner. Loria refused the buyout and, according to Forbes magazine, ("Hardball" by Nathan Vardi, April 26, 2004 p. 67) partially meet the calls himself with $18 million.

As a result, persuant to a clause in the partnership contract, Loria received an additional 70% of the team, giving him a 94% controlling interest in the team. In total, Loria is estimated to have spent $30 million to purchase his share of the team. (This is a franchise estimated at $108 million in 2002 by Forbes Magazine. Thus a 94% stake would have cost about $100 million.)

Next, Loria agreed with Major League Baseball to contract (eliminate) the Montreal Expos, and buy the Florida Marlins. Due to a successful legal battle fought on behalf of the Minnesota Twins, MLB had to put off contracting the Expos until after the 2003 season. However, in the 2003 collective bargaining agreement, the Major League Baseball Players Association negotiated a contraction moratorium until after the 2006 season.

In the mean time, in December 2002, Loria sold the team to Major League Baseball for $120 million and purchased the Florida Marlins. (Loria now leaves the Expos' saga and appears in the Marlin's story.)

Following the departure of Loria, and his minority partners, (Canadian corporations now own 6% of the Florida Marlins) the Commissioner's office installed some quality baseball men to run the team. Tony Tavarez became the Expos President, Omar Minaya was hired as general manager, and Frank Robinson as manager. Despite having excellent executives, the inherent conflict of interest has caused the Expos to continue as one of the worst franchises in baseball.

UPDATE: April 8, 2005

In late 2004, Major League Baseball moved the team to Washington D.C. They have been renamed the Washington Nationals. MLB is still looking for an owner.

The team will play in RFK stadium until its new home is completed. The Washington D.C. city council approved public funds for the construction of this ballpark as a condition for MLB to move the team to the nation's capital.


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