Red Sox bidders pick up heavy hitters

Saturday, November 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ The billionaire owner of the Florida Marlins and Lehman Brothers investment banking firm reportedly are ready to join separate groups bidding to purchase the Boston Red Sox.

John Henry, whose Marlins are on Major League Baseball's chopping block, plans to join the bid of Hollywood television magnate Tom Werner and former Maine skiing mogul Les Otten, according to The Boston Globe.

The Globe said Lehman Brothers is joining South Boston waterfront land owner Frank McCourt's bid.

Henry already has reached an agreement to sell the Marlins, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, despite the team's uncertain status next season due to the league's contraction.

Baseball owners voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two of 30 teams before next season. The Marlins, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins are considered candidates. Owners will discuss contraction Tuesday during a meeting in Chicago.

Binding bids for the Red Sox are due next Thursday. The businessmen competing to purchase the 53 percent of the American League team have to show they can raise as much as $350 million.

With Henry, the Werner/Otten group could win easy approval from league officials vetting potential owners.

The Globe said Lehman Brothers is particularly interested in the team's 80 percent stake in New England Sports Network, which is included in the sale. Lehman could invest up to $100 million through a media investment fund.

McCourt and a Werner/Otten group spokesman could not be reached to comment, the Globe said.

Henry has lost money each year since he bought the team from Wayne Huizenga in 1999 and has been unable to win public financing for a new ballpark. The Sun-Sentinel reported that Henry was interested in buying the California Angels.

Henry has not disclosed who his buyer is for the Marlins, but several papers report that it's Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria.

The Red Sox are expected to chose the winning bidder by the end of November.

Bidders include: Cablevision Systems chairman Charles Dolan; New York lawyer Miles Prentice; concession companies Delaware North, owned by Jeremy Jacobs, and Aramark Corp.; and local concessionaire Joseph O'Donnell and mall developer Steve Karp.

Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth subpoenaed MLB officials two weeks ago to find out if the state's two teams may be dropped or relocated. They were sent to baseball commissioner Bud Selig and representatives of the Devil Rays and Marlins.

They require that by Dec. 13 all documents _ including all studies, research or reports relating to contraction and any documents relating to the Nov. 6 meeting of baseball owners _ be turned over.

The Marlins had the third worst attendance this season, averaging just 15,554 fans per game.