Three groups have been approved by Major League Baseball to review the financial records of the San Diego Padres for a possible purchase of the franchise, John Moores, the team's majority owner, told MLB.com on Friday.
Moores said he expects that number to reach at least six before the bidding on the club is complete.
"We may not be successful [in selling the team], but I suspect that we will be," said Moores, who is in New York, where he's attending a four-game series between the Padres and Mets at Citi Field. "I can't give you a timetable, but I remain optimistic. There's no reason for me to believe that we won't have a sale in place by the end of the season."
According to Moores, the three groups that have received MLB approval are headed by Hollywood motion-picture mogul Thomas Tull, former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley and New York hedge fund multi-billionaire Steve Cohen, a recent minority partner of the Mets who was in the running until the end to purchase the Dodgers from Frank McCourt. Cohen's group was outbid by Guggenheim Baseball Management, which bought the Dodgers for $2.15 billion.
Hall of Famer and career Padres right-fielder Tony Gwynn has aligned himself with the Tull group, Moores confirmed. Gwynn, the head baseball coach at San Diego State University, is the only member of any of the groups with deep San Diego ties.
Steve Greenberg of Allen & Co. and John Moag of Moag & Co are handling the sale. Greenberg is the son of Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. A sale ultimately must be approved by various MLB committees and a 75-percent vote of the 29 other clubs.
Moores said the bidding process has yet to begin, but added that he expects to receive more than the $530 million price he garnered for the club when he sold a minority share of it to a group headed by Jeff Moorad in 2009. The team recently signed a $1.2 billion television broadcast deal with FOX and has a share in a new regional sports network, increasing its overall value.
"I have a [sale price] range in my head, but I don't think I want to share that right now," Moores said. "Let's just say that with the new TV deal and the price that was paid for the Dodgers, it's considerably north of where it once was."
Moorad had a five-year window to purchase the majority share of the Padres, but earlier this year he couldn't get approval from baseball owners to complete the purchase. The deal was taken off the agenda at the first quarterly Owners' Meetings in January. At the time, Moorad's group of limited partners owned 49 percent of the franchise and still does. That group will be bought out when and if the team is sold.
Subsequently, Moorad pulled his request to buy the team and was replaced as Padres chief executive and point man for his own group of limited partners. Moores then resumed the task of selling the team.
Moores bought a majority share of the Padres at the end of the 1994 season for about $70 million and has run it ever since. Under his watch, the Padres helped build Petco Park, which opened in 2004, and have been to the playoffs four times, losing the 1998 World Series in four games to the Yankees.
"This is a clean sale process," Moores said. "Once we have a bid in place, it will take a while for baseball to go through the necessary paperwork, but that shouldn't be difficult. There's no bankruptcy as occurred with the last three sales (Cubs, Rangers and Dodgers). This is more business as usual."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.