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Grizzlies Sold to Major Sports Investment Firm With Hollywood Connections
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By Edward Smith
Published 5 months ago on
November 7, 2023

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The Fresno Grizzlies found new ownership in one of the largest baseball ownership groups.

Diamond Baseball Holdings purchased the Single-A team from Fresno Sports & Events, according to a news release Tuesday.

“I am so grateful to … the team at Fresno Sports & Events for their leadership and vision,” said Grizzlies President and General Manager Derek Franks, referring to the Grizzlies’ former owners. “Our fans have enabled us to set the bar high for what minor league baseball means in in Fresno and we’re excited to partner with DBH to continue elevating the experiences we bring the community.”

Grizzlies Join Roster of 25 Other Minor League Teams Owned by DBH

Following approval from Major League Baseball and the Fresno City Council, the Grizzlies would join other minor league teams under the company’s ownership, one of which would be San Jose Giants, a rival in the Single-A California League.

“Minor league baseball is truly unlike any other sport, and the value it brings to families and communities across the country is tangible,” said DBH CEO Peter Freund in an email to GV Wire. “We see tremendous value in the collective nature of DBH — the ability for our clubs to learn from one another, share ideas and centralized resources to achieve our goal of creating fun, affordable, family entertainment accessible to everyone.”

In August, 2022, Ballpark Digest listed 11 teams under the ownership of Diamond Baseball Holdings. If approved by all parties, the Grizzlies acquisition would bring the number of minor league teams owned by DBH to 26.

DBH also owns the San Jose Giants, with which the Grizzlies regularly compete. DBH purchased the team from the San Francisco Giants in 2021.

The MLB does not have rules against an owner having more than one team in the same league.

Under MLB rules, the team’s affiliate, the Colorado Rockies, are in charge of the team’s roster.

Freund said control of the club is handled locally. Franks, a partial owner with Fresno Sports & Events, retained his position as general manager and president. What DBH offers is access, support, and efficiencies, he said.

“The needs of each Club are still primarily managed by the local staff in place and in the case of Fresno, are in the very capable hands of Derek Franks and his team,” Freund said.

In October, DBH purchased the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate. They also own the Oklahoma City Dodgers, the long-time Triple-A affiliate of the L.A. Dodgers.

Other teams include:

  • Iowa Cubs
  • Memphis Redbirds
  • Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders
  • Hudson Valley Renegades
  • Gwinnett Stripers
  • Mississippi Braves
  • Rome Braves
  • Augusta Greenjackets
  • Altoona Curve
  • Down East Wood Ducks
  • Hickory Crawdads
  • Lansing Lugnuts
  • Memphis Redbirds
  • Midland Rockhounds
  • Norfolk Tides
  • Portland Sea Dogs
  • Salem Red Sox
  • Springfield Cardinals
  • St. Paul Saints
  • Tulsa Drillers
  • Vancouver Canadians
  • Wichita Wind Surge

Diamond Baseball Holdings on a Buying Tear

Investment firm Endeavor Group Holdings created Diamond Baseball Holdings in 2021. Long-time Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel — who inspired the character Ari Gold in the HBO show Entourage — formed Endeavor as a entertainment holding company.

When DBH was formed in 2021, it quickly became the single-largest owner of baseball teams, according to Giantfutures.com.

Endeavor also owns Ultimate Fighting Championship and the World Wrestling Entertainment.

In 2021, Ownership of DBH shifted to Endeavor’s parent company, Silver Lake.

Among sports and entertainment investments, Silver Lake also invests heavily in technology, with numerous financial and real estate tech companies listed on its website.

The group has been on a buying frenzy, having purchased stakes in at least three other teams in September and October, including the Isotopes.

Arias: Some Investment Firms Have Track Record of ‘Dumping Assets’

Fresno City Council would have to approve the contract after all other parties, including MLB have approved it.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said he supports the new owners.

“We are excited to welcome Diamond Baseball Holdings as they work to finalize this sale,” Dyer said in a statement. “Their investment, tenure and expertise in minor league baseball will greatly benefit both the Grizzlies, and our continued downtown revitalization.”

Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias, whose district includes Chukchansi Park, said he wants more accommodations for non-baseball uses of the stadium, which he says is the biggest revenue generator for the city and ownership.

Spanish-language concerts and soccer generate a lot of revenue for the stadium, he said.

In the past, ownership groups have up-charged for parking during non-baseball events.

He said that sends people to park in the streets, which takes money away from downtown breweries.

Arias said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the new company.

“I’m optimistic that a new ownership team could do what past ownerships have never done, which is invest in downtown,” Arias said. An investment firm with capital may have the wherewithal to put money back into the area.

He said was cautious about investment firms, some of whom buy an asset only to dump it later.

He wanted a company that would meet its obligation of investing into the stadium’s maintenance and capital upgrades.

“We cannot have this historical relationship where we privatize profits and socialize losses,” Arias said.

Investor Wants to Continue Grizzlies’ Reputation for Promotional Events

Freund called the Grizzlies’ promotional events “well known and celebrated.” He mentioned specifically the Tequila Fest, which won a Golden Bobblehead Award at the MiLB Awards Show in Las Vegas.

“DBH will champion the existing staff in Fresno to continue bringing that level of quality entertainment to the community and provide access to resources to further elevate those experiences,” Freund said.

Freund said they want to take events at Chukchansi Park to the next level, investing in the stadium and in operations.

“We are poised to invest substantial resources to ensure the stadium is a hallmark for player development and innovate around the fan experience during baseball season,” Freund said. “The Grizzlies are already well known for their non-baseball events, and we plan to take those to the next level with national tour stops and events that draw massive crowds to the downtown area year-round, things like the Savannah Bananas, concerts, comedy, seasonal events and more.”

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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