DENVER -- A new era in San Diego Padres history dawned on Thursday morning when the Major League owners approved the transfer of the franchise from John Moores to a group headed by longtime San Diego businessman Ron Fowler.
Fowler is the club's new control person and will represent the organization at all league meetings. Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley's son Kevin and nephew Peter Seidler will represent the family in a group that also includes pro golfer Phil Mickelson, a San Diego native.
The vote was unanimous and occurred almost immediately after Thursday's third quarterly joint meeting of the year began. Fowler and several members of the O'Malley family were then ushered into the hall to a standing ovation from the MLB owners.
"I'm very happy to say we approve the sale of the San Diego Padres," Commissioner Bud Selig said in making the announcement. "We're very delighted. They made a great presentation all along. I will say, as I've said to the clubs, this is actually the easiest transaction I've had in a long time. Those are the best kind."
The new group is the fifth to hold stewardship of the Padres since the National League franchise was founded in 1969. The official transfer is expected in approximately 10-14 days when the $800 million deal closes. Tom Garfinkel will remain as chief executive and Josh Byrnes as general manager.
Moores had owned the team for 18 years. He immediately left the room after the vote and headed for some time off after selling the team.
"It was an out-of-body experience," Moores told MLB.com about how he felt as the owners voted for the transfer. "It was more emotional than I thought it would be. I was on the phone afterward and I couldn't keep my voice from cracking. It's been 18 years."
Peter O'Malley and his father, Walter, owned and operated the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles from 1950-98. Because of a scheduling conflict, Peter was not at the meetings, Kevin O'Malley said.
"My cousins, Kevin and Brian O'Malley, and my brother, Tom, we're a combination thrilled to be in this position," Seidler said. "But we also feel a great sense of responsibility to the game and community of San Diego. We really look forward to going to work and doing everything we can to make the city of San Diego happy with our leadership, particularly the fans."
Fowler, the CEO of Liquid Investments, a San Diego beer distributorship, is the first locally-based control person of the Padres since founding owner C. Arnholdt Smith. Smith, a banker and transplanted San Diegan, originally bought the team, and he later sold it to McDonald's founder Ray Kroc in 1974, saving it from a move to Washington, D.C. Kroc was a Chicago native. The next ownership group was headed by current Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, a New York native and Hollywood television producer.
Moores was born and still resides at least part of the year in Houston. He bought a majority share of the Padres at the end of the 1994 season from Werner and his group of 15 owners for about $80 million. Under his watch, the Padres helped build Petco Park, which opened in 2004. They went to the playoffs four times with Moores, including the 1998 World Series, which they lost in four games to the Yankees.
Seidler said neither he nor any member of his family wanted an out-front role in the ownership group. Thus, they agreed to make Fowler the face of the franchise because of his standing in the community.
"We wanted to put together local ownership, supportive people to maintain long-term stability for the franchise," Seidler said. "We've spent a lot of time with Ron, really getting to know him, talking about our philosophy in owning a baseball franchise, the responsibility that comes with that. It was a very, very easy decision for all of us to make."
Fowler, 68, has long had an impact on the San Diego sports community. He was an owner of the indoor soccer team, the Sockers, on the tail end of their run of 10 championships in 11 years. He was also chair of the city's first Task Force charged with selecting a site for what turned out to be Petco Park, and he chaired the host committee for the 2003 Super Bowl, the last of three to be staged at Qualcomm Stadium.
Fowler said he is thrilled with his new position.
"At 68, I'm starting a new career," he said. "I'm the old man of the group here. These guys are young people. The O'Malley family had a great history, obviously, with the Dodgers. We're looking for a long, consistent ownership group here.
"As a San Diegan -- been there for 30-plus years now -- I think it's great for baseball in San Diego that the O'Malley family and the Seidler family are going to be the owners. I'm looking forward to having some fun over the next 5-10 years."