MLB approves Reds ownership change

Reds ownership change approved

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It took less than five minutes for the majority ownership of the Reds to pass hands from Carl Lindner to Robert Castellini on Thursday morning.

The Cincinnati produce magnate waited patiently outside a ballroom where the quarterly joint owners meeting had just begun. Castellini was chatting amiably and off-the-record with a pair of reporters when Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox president, ducked his head through the wooden double doorway and beckoned Castellini into the inner sanctum as one of Major League Baseball's 30 chosen.

Castellini received a loud ovation as he replaced Lindner, who has had control of the franchise since 1999 and now will take a minority stake of the Reds, who were founded in 1869 and are widely acknowledged as baseball's oldest franchise. The vote was unanimous and it was the only action item of the meeting.

"I met him for the first time last night," Commissioner Bud Selig said about Castellini after the meeting. "Everybody raves about him. He's very personable. He's a Cincinnati man. It's local ownership. I think this is great. In fact, this was an easy one. It was quick and true."

Castellini's stewardship will be formally rolled out on Friday at a press conference in Cincinnati, and he cordially asked not to be quoted before then.

Two other members of the purchasing group, the brothers Thomas L. and William J. Williams Jr., have the Reds in their bloodline. Their father and uncle were owners of the franchise from 1966 to 1984, before Marge Schott took control as majority owner.

The club reportedly was valued at $270 million, and Castellini is buying about 70 percent. Lindner purchased the team from Schott for $67 million. It is the third shift of a majority portion of an MLB franchise in the last year, following the sales of the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Devil Rays. That leaves the Washington Nationals, Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves still on the market.

"We've been through a lot of change," Selig said. "It's not like it used to be in 1970, when I first came into baseball [as owner of the relocated Milwaukee Brewers]. Life has changed, but for the most part we've been pretty stable."

Lindner aside, Reds minority owners Bill Reik Jr., a New York investment broker, and George Strike are keeping their shares.

Castellini is a former minority partner with the Texas Rangers and has been in the same position with the St. Louis Cardinals for the last decade. The Williams brothers are also minority partners in the Cardinals ownership group. All three are currently in the process of divesting those shares, said Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer. Castellini reportedly owns about 10 percent and the Williams brothers own three percent.

Castellini's a Cincinnati native and continues a long pattern of keeping the Reds under the stewardship of locally based owners.

"Local ownership was crucial there and it was critical to Carl Lindner, too," Selig said. "We all set that goal. The one overriding goal was to have local ownership."

Castellini is so local that he once owned a group of buildings near old Riverfront Stadium identified by a large sign that read "Castellini Produce." But Castellini sold the 24-acre parcel for $36.5 million to Hamilton County, which tore down the buildings to make way for Paul Brown Stadium, the current home of the National Football League's Bengals.

Riverfront, named Cinergy Field in its final years, was imploded after the 2002 season. It was replaced by Great American Ball Park, which was constructed on an adjacent lot. The two new stadiums sandwich the now empty spot where the Big Red Machine won World Series titles in 1975 and 1976, and Pete Rose passed Ty Cobb to take over the lead on the all-time hits list in 1985.

Castellini, 64, is still involved in his produce business but intends to spend a great deal of time resurrecting the Reds, who haven't won the World Series since 1990 and haven't made the playoffs since 1995, when they swept the Dodgers in a National League Division Series and in turn were swept by the Braves in the NL Championship Series.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.