City Council unanimously passed the measure to update the lease agreement pending the team’s sale. Our updated coverage will follow shortly.
After years of talk about the sale of the Fresno Grizzlies, a transaction may be imminent. A group with experience in minor league baseball ownership could be purchasing the club soon.
A reliable source with knowledge of the sale confirms to GV Wire that Ray Baker and Michael Baker, a father-son team from Denver, as well as Jim Coufos, who also formerly had a stake in a different minor league team, are buying the Grizzlies.
The Bakers are minority owners of the Grand Junction Rockies, a Pioneer League (Rookie level) team that is an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. The majority owners of that team are the Monfort Investment Group. Members of the Monfort family also own the big league Rockies.
Ray Baker is also the chairman of the public agencies that oversee Coors Field and Sports Authority Field at Mile High, respective Denver homes of the Rockies (MLB) and the Denver Broncos (NFL). A Tampa Bay Online article in 2013 credits Baker with helping build Denver’s stadiums.
Michael Baker is listed as president of Gold Crown Management Company, a real estate investment firm in Greenwood Village, a Denver suburb.
Coufos is a former investment banker, now living in Southern California. He is a philanthropist, involved with the Hoag Hospital Foundation in Newport Beach.
Coufos also owns a piece of the Billings Mustangs, Rookie ball team for Cincinnati (Pioneer League). He also held a stake in the High Desert Mavericks (High A, California League), before the team was contracted at the end of last season.
His partner in both teams is Dave Heller, who had nothing but praise. “Jim is a fabulous guy. He loves baseball and California. I’m sure he will do a sensational job in Fresno. He does things one way- the right way,” Heller told GV Wire.
The Grizzlies have been for sale for years. While no purchase price has been discussed, a 2013 Forbes survey of minor league teams valued the Grizzlies at $24 million. At the time, that rank tied for 15th for all minor league clubs. In an updated 2016 survey, the Grizzlies did not crack the top 30.
The issue of the team’s lease with the city for Chukchansi Park will be discussed at a special Fresno city council meeting today (June 26). In a staff report, the city is proposing cutting rent for the stadium to $500,000. Previously, the team paid $1.5 million, with various credits knocking it down to $750,000.
Also, there will be a profit sharing plan. The owners would pay 20% on profits above $500,000, up to $300,000 per year.
The team and city will also chip in for stadium capital improvements. Under the plan, the team and city would contribute $300,000 a year, starting in 2020. The initial deposit would be $5.25 million (a combination of funds from the city, current owners and new ownership group).
In return, the team will remain at Chukchansi Park through 2036, with significant financial penalties if they move (penalties start at $44 million, and going down by $3 million each year). The team will also agree to allow use of the stadium for non-game days for at least 100 events by the community (youth ball games, board meetings for non-profits).
George Hostetter of CV Observer was the first to report the names of the new owners.
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Contact David Taub
Phone: 559-492-4037 / e-mail
This story was not subject to the approval of Granville Homes.
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