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Blue Sox club could challenge sale plans

| Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, 7:08 p.m.

The majority owners of the Butler Blue Sox baseball team said they plan to challenge the minority owners' sale of their share of the team without informing them.

The City of Butler Parks Recreation Grounds & Facilities Authority, which runs Pullman Park Stadium, owns about 40 percent of the team. The authority announced at its December meeting that it plans to sell its share to the Nonprofit Development Corp., a subsidiary of Butler's Alliance for Nonprofit Resources, a support network for nonprofits.

Any sale would require the approval of the Prospect League.

“There was not one discussion they had with the majority group,” said William Robinson, one of five majority owners. “This also violates an agreement that says that majority has the first right to buy if the minority wants to sell.”

Robinson, a Butler lawyer, represents the majority owners. He said he sent the team's lawyer a letter in September expressing the majority's interest in buying a greater portion of the team.

Art Cordwell, executive director of the City of Butler Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the stadium's authority, disagrees that the authority had to consult the majority owners before selling.

“Our solicitor thought it was fine to so this. I had two different lawyers look over that agreement,” he said.

Cordwell said the authority's board voted unanimously in November to sell its share of the team to the Nonprofit Development Corp. and liked the idea of selling its share to another nonprofit.

“The majority's idea was that we should have not have been involved in the sale. We felt very comfortable that another nonprofit was the potential buyer,” Cordwell said.

The Nonprofit Development Corp. now does bookkeeping for the stadium.

Its director, Mike Robb, said he's never heard that the majority owners have rights of first refusal.

“We would not have moved forward if we had seen a document like that. We have a good relationship with the authority. We think the team is good for the community, and we have no plans to leave the community, Robb said.

The 79-year-old ballpark closed in 2005, was renovated and reopened in 2008. It's also a venue for youth and high school baseball and other events.

In the 1930s, Pullman Park hosted minor league teams affiliated with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Josh Gibson played there.

In January, the park will be renamed Kelly Automotive Park.

The auto dealership will pay the authority $150,000 for a five-year naming rights agreement.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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