Wolff to sell interest in club to remaining owners; Kaval named president
By Jane Lee
OAKLAND -- Lew Wolff is stepping down as managing partner of the Athletics, handing the reins to majority owner John Fisher. In addition, Dave Kaval has been named A's president, replacing Michael Crowley, who after 20 years in the position will transition to a senior adviser role with the ownership group.
Major League Baseball owners approved the transition of power Thursday during the Owners Meetings in Chicago.
Wolff, who is selling most of his stake in the organization to the remaining partners, will assume the role of chairman emeritus.
"It has been an honor serving as managing partner," Wolff said, "and I thank our fans, staff and players for the opportunity I've had to lead this great organization."
"I want to thank Lew for his leadership over the last 11 years," Fisher said. "His initiative and love of the game of baseball brought my family to the A's, and we would not be involved without him. Lew has given the organization all of his energy and experience for the last 11 years, and I look forward to a new chapter in our working relationship and friendship."
Wolff, Fisher and a limited partnership group purchased the A's on April 1, 2005, and a new ballpark has since been Wolff's desire for the club. Kaval, who also serves as president of the San Jose Earthquakes, shares this vision and said from the Coliseum on Thursday he will be taking over the lead on the stadium search in Oakland.
Kaval has experience in such affairs, having orchestrated the opening of the Quakes' $100 million, privately financed soccer stadium, Avaya Stadium, in March 2015.
"I think there's another great opportunity in Oakland to do the same thing, to bring people together around baseball, because this is a community that's starved for a location," said Kaval, who noted the A's continue to evaluate several sites. "The whole reality is we need to find a place to bring this community together."
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke on the matter from the Owners Meetings, saying, "John has been really engaged for over a year on the stadium project. He's made it his project. He's really focused on Oakland as the result of some direction I've given him with respect to my views on that market. And I can't say enough about the effort John and his team are putting in on the stadium project and trying to identify the best site for a stadium in Oakland."
"Our new ballpark will be unique, something the community feels special about," said Oakland A's President Dave Kaval this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/0veT5NxUPv
Kaval, the seventh president in A's history, considers himself a ballpark guru after completing a tour of all 30 MLB stadiums in 1998, which led to a book titled "The Summer That Saved Baseball" he co-authored two years later.
Kaval envisions for the A's a privately funded stadium in the middle of a vibrant, urban community that's not only unique but celebrates Oakland's rich baseball history. Only when these doors open, he says, will "everything fall into place."
That means Oakland's spending habits -- the club's payroll is continually near the bottom in the Majors -- will likely remain unchanged in 2017. Updating the fan experience at the Coliseum, however, doesn't have to wait; Kaval believes it's doable now.
"The key is the revenue that a new stadium will bring, and I think hopefully people will find this announcement as a step toward that direction," Kaval said. "Because the only way long-term we're going to be successful and win championships is by having a much stronger revenue base and a more comparable base with some of the clubs in the league. We're at a disadvantage, and we have to remedy that problem, and once we do ... then we get a competitive advantage again, and then I think we can do some really great things."
Kaval wants help beyond the walls of the Coliseum while taking on this endeavor, believing the community's involvement to be essential to the process. To that end, he plans to open his office doors at the Coliseum to visitors from 3-5 p.m. each Tuesday, beginning in December.
"I know the A's fans," he said, "and I know they're starving for a place to call home. We're going to do everything we can to solve that problem, to find our home, and build a great stadium for this community."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.