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Bidding War Likely for D.C. Team

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 25, 2004; Page A01

The investment group known as Washington Baseball Club Limited Liability Co. has been nothing if not persistent, vowing for the past five years that it will somehow, some way, bring the financially troubled Montreal Expos to the District.

So far, the group has spent more than $1 million on office space, a full-time executive director, a Web site and courting Major League Baseball officials. In a display of confidence, the group has posted an online sign-up sheet so fans can get season ticket information when the time is right.

Jeff Zients, 37, is the public face of the Washington Baseball Club.

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And now, guess what?

Washington Baseball Club, a group of wealthy area investors headed by 37-year-old Washington native Jeff Zients, faces some potentially strong competition if Major League Baseball, which took over the Expos in 2002, awards the team to the District. A bidding war is expected and, though Washington Baseball Club is the early favorite, it could end up watching another group circle the bases, according to sports industry analysts.

For now, Washington Baseball Club's competition comes mainly from a group headed by a New York real estate investor, Mark Broxmeyer, who says he hopes to have Republican heavyweights Steve Forbes and Rudy Giuliani on his team. His New York-based group, Baseball Club of America LLC, also includes Texas businessman and Republican activist Fred S. Zeidman, who heads the parent organization of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

"We're ready to put a bid in," said Broxmeyer, 55, who has long expressed an interest in owning a baseball team. He said he had been looking to buy a minor league club, but turned his attention to pursuing a major league franchise several years ago after learning that the Expos were on the market.

"We decided that we were going to go for the big enchilada and buy the Expos and move them to Washington," said Broxmeyer, who is also a major contributor to President Bush's reelection campaign.

Despite the objections of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, Major League Baseball is believed to be pressing ahead with plans to move the Expos to the District. When -- and if -- that decision is made, the league will solicit bids from potential owners. Commissioner Bud Selig ultimately would decide who would be awarded the franchise.

Another potential bidder is DSG Baseball, a group headed by Memphis investment banker Brian Saulsberry, a 1998 graduate of Howard University. The group, which Saulsberry said was formed with a goal of bringing the Expos to Washington, has told baseball officials that it intends to make a bid.

Saulsberry, 28, said his group includes Alphonso Maldon Jr., a former assistant secretary of defense who headed President Bill Clinton's White House military office; Stanley Glenn, president of the Negro League Baseball Players Association; Tom Pagnozzi, a former St. Louis Cardinals catcher who owns a construction firm in Fayetteville, Ark.; and Rick Kelleher, former president of Promus Hotel Corp., which was acquired by Hilton Hotels Corp. in 1999.

"We'll have some more key investors to announce, coming down the turnpike," said Saulsberry, who grew up in Mississippi and Tennessee. "We'll have some names that will resonate."

Saulsberry, who is black, said: "Major League Baseball is trying to appeal to inner-city youth and bring on minorities in upper-level ownership positions. D.C. is one of the best cities to do just that."

A name floating around baseball circles is former Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten, who has been contacted by would-be ownership groups around the country since he left the Braves last November, according to people who know Kasten.

Kasten is believed to have allied himself with several high-net worth individuals and is exploring the possibility of buying a sports team. "I just am not ready yet to talk about any of my future plans," said Kasten, who is respected among baseball executives for his ability to manage professional sports teams. In addition to running the Braves for 17 years, Kasten also was general manager and then president of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team for a total of 24 years, as well as president of the Atlanta Thrashers of the National Hockey League.

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