Economy Backs Cards out of Memphis Purchase

Citing economic uncertainty, the St. Louis Cardinals have withdrawn their September, 2008 letter of intent to purchase their Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds.

When the St. Louis Cardinals arrive in Memphis to play their Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, for a pair of exhibition games on April 3-4, the weather forecast may be a bit chillier than originally planned.


According to multiple reports out of Tennessee, Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. informed Redbirds officials in late December of his club's intent to withdraw from their letter of intent to purchase the team and rental of AutoZone Park.


The Memphis Commercial Appeal attributes the failure to the economy and specifically to at least two specific factors that are concerning the Cardinals:


  • Debt assumed by the major league club as part of the $365 million price tag of the new Busch Stadium, which opened three seasons ago.


  • Their future revenue projections.


Neither DeWitt nor general manager John Mozeliak was available for comment to the paper.


While all appearances are of a cordial break up, Redbirds president of business operations Bill Harter labeled the news "disappointing" and said they were "surprised" by the turn of events. The two sides had been in negotiations since at least September 16, when the formal announcement was made at Busch Stadium.


From the Memphis side, sticky points in the proposed sale revolved around bond and tax issues surrounding the required change of the Redbirds from a non-profit to a for-profit entity.


The Redbirds are carrying significant debt load of their own. Dave Chase, president of baseball operations and general manager of the Redbirds, summed up the situation for the Memphis Business Journal.


"We're still the top grossing team in minor league baseball, we still have the best ballpark in minor league baseball and we still have the most loyal fans. But we also have the most debt and were looking for an infusion of cash that we're not going to get now," Chase said.


The aborted agreement could be revisited in the future if the Cardinals want to return to the table – if the Redbirds are still for sale at that time. While Harter made it clear they are not desperate to sell, he seemed open to consider interest from the right prospective buyers.


The decision does not affect the four-year extension of the player development agreement signed last fall that binds the Redbirds and Cardinals together on the field for four more seasons, a relationship that began back in 1998.


Further comments from the Redbirds brass revolved around their continued preparation for the 2009 season as the club comes off a very successful 2008 campaign.


"We heard loud and clear in August from our fans that they want Redbirds baseball, AutoZone Park and Cardinals baseball," Chase told the paper. "All of those things will be here April 3. That's what's important."



Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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