No sooner had Time Warner announced it was divesting itself of non-core assets than people started wondering, hey, what happens to Stan Kasten?
Well, maybe they thought about what that meant for the Braves' payroll first. But the two are linked: If the Braves weren't under severe payroll restrictions, Kasten wouldn't be riding off into the sunset.
Kasten is a unique figure in professional sports. He's the only person to be president of three major professional sports teams -- the Braves, NBA Hawks and NHL Thrashers -- simultaneously. His Time Warner title, president of Turner Sports Teams, included those duties and running Turner Field, the Braves' home, and Philips Arena, where the Hawks and Thrashers play. The arena is also Atlanta's prime concert venue.
Time Warner, trying to trim roughly $24 billion in debt, put its sports teams on the market. The Hawks, Thrashers and arena operating rights, as a package, have found buyers in a group of eight men, half of whom are local, including Ted Turner's son-in-law, Rutherford Seydel.
Time Warner is not as gung-ho to rid itself of the Braves, however. The team still represents programming for TBS -- that's the reason Ted Turner bought them to begin with -- and Time Warner executives do love sitting in that Turner Field owner's box.
So long as Kasten was under contract to Time Warner, he could not in good conscience negotiate a position with the Hawks' and Thrashers' new owners. Right now, he is making noises about possibly devoting himself to charitable work or community service, but he clearly is a sports junkie (not to mention a stress junkie) and the Gang of Eight will just as clearly be more fun to work with than Time Warner execs (Kasten's longtime friend Terry McGuirk, TBS vice chairman and CEO of Turner Sports Teams, excepted).
Kasten will say only, "Three of the four units I've been running are being sold off, and an inevitable metamorphosis is going on at the Braves as we try to retool that. Would I have been at my happiest, at my most effective going on with that? I thought, on balance, I'd be better off making this change now.
"I consider myself a leader of people. I build things. That's what I like to do, building the Hawks of the '80s, the Braves of the '90s and the Thrashers of the 2000s. It has been an amazing company to allow those things to happen. But we all know the last couple of years, and particularly the last year, has been very, very difficult for [Time Warner]."
Given that, the Braves' payroll will reportedly fall between $70 million and $75 million. That translates into no Gary Sheffield, no Greg Maddux and no Javy Lopez.
Lopez was on his way out anyway, and Maddux was iffy because of his age, his likely salary and his performance this year. The Braves want to keep Sheffield, but they are no longer in a position to offer multimillion dollar, long-term contracts -- especially not to a player who just turned 35.
Braves Notebook: Behind the Kasten Resignation
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