Gaylord Entertainment agrees to sell Oklahoma City ball club

Thursday, July 3rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A businessman and a state senator have agreed to purchase the Oklahoma City RedHawks minor league baseball team from Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment Co.

The sale of the Triple-A team, which is affiliated with the Texas Rangers, is part of Gaylord Entertainment's larger program to pay down debt and focus on its hotel chain and the Grand Ole Opry.

``With the anticipated sale of the RedHawks, our focus on our two brands will become more intense,'' said Colin Reed, president and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment.

The purchase price was not disclosed.

The club is being acquired by Bob Funk, owner of the Oklahoma City Blazers Central Hockey League team and Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow.

Gaylord Entertainment bought the team, then known as the 89ers, from New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria after the 1993 season for $8 million. Loria now owns the major league Florida Marlins.

The latest sale is expected to close this fall, pending approval from the Pacific Coast League and Major League Baseball.

``I got involved with the hockey team to support the community, and it is the same issue here,'' Funk said. ``There was an out-of-town prospective buyer (from New York) that was very close (to buying the team), and Scott came and communicated with me that he would be interested in the baseball team to keep local ownership.''

Funk, 63, and Pruitt, 35, are buying the Gaylords' 76 percent interest in the RedHawks, but that figure may rise.

``We've made an offer for 100 percent,'' Pruitt said. ``The seller stipulated that we make a 100 percent offer, with the potential that the other limited partners would keep their 24 percent interest. So we're still in the process of notifying limited partners, and it remains to be seen whether it will be 76 percent or 100 percent.''

Funk, founder and chairman of Express Personnel Services, will be the RedHawks' majority owner with 51 percent. Pruitt, a lawyer who has been a Republican state senator for five years, will own at least 25 percent of the team.

Pruitt, originally from Kentucky, played second base and shortstop for the Georgetown, Ky., College and University of Kentucky baseball teams. He is a University of Kentucky and University of Tulsa Law School graduate.

Though Pruitt will continue to live in Broken Arrow, he said he will be involved in the day-to-day operations of the ball club as the managing general partner of the ownership group.

Tim O'Toole is in his sixth season as the president and general manager of the RedHawks.

``We do not expect there to be many changes in the transitional period,'' Funk said. ``Tim is very interested in continuing, and we have interest in him as well.''