KANSAS CITY -- After 20 years of owning the Royals, David Glass is selling the team to Kansas City businessman John Sherman, who owns a minority stake in the Indians, a sale that is expected to get the 75 percent approval needed by the other MLB owners at their next meetings in November.
Glass has not spoken publicly since news broke last week of the pending sale. But on Wednesday he did, sitting down with MLB.com in his Kauffman Stadium office to discuss his decision to sell.
The obvious question: Why now?
Glass: “My family talked about it around the beginning of this year. This is our 20th season of owning the team. We just felt like it was the right time. We started to talk about when the best time was to sell to someone else and get new ownership in here. As it worked out, I had talked to John Sherman before. He had asked about buying the Royals, even before he got interested in the Indians [in 2016]. But I didn’t have an interest at that time. But still, I knew he had an interest so when I talked with my family about it, it seemed logical he would be the guy. Plus, at 84, I’m going to have to figure some things out at some time anyway.”
You appear in great shape, which seems to contradict rumors that this was health-related.
Glass (smiling): “Once a day, I walk on the treadmill. I have cut down on doing the weights. And as time goes by, you cut down the speed on the treadmill, and you lower the elevation. But I always feel better when I [work out]. Look, when you get to be 84, you’ll find out that some things just don’t work as well as they used to. You have all kinds of things to complain about. No one listens, but you have things to complain about.”
It has been assumed by many, myself included, that you’d eventually just hand the club over to your son, Dan. Was he not interested?
Glass: “I think Dan, he had an interest in doing that. But he also likes doing other things. He has over 25 years here, which is a fairly decent career. And if you really do want to try doing something else, it’s probably the time to do it at this point of his life.”
You wouldn’t have sold the team to anyone if there was any doubt they might relocate, correct?
Glass: “John is the right guy. He’s a big-time Royals fan. Long-time season-ticket holder. He loves the Royals. His family loves the Royals. I was surprised that when the sale of the team came out there were people in Kansas City concerned that the team might move. This team’s not going anywhere. John is the perfect guy to take it forward. He is committed to Kansas City.”
When you first came on the scene in 1993, when you were overseeing Ewing Kauffman’s succession plan as a favor to him, it was such a turbulent time. And you weren’t initially interested in ownership. What ultimately changed your mind?
Glass: “Initially, Ewing wanted to gift the team to the city. But that didn’t work. The city didn’t want the team. And there wasn’t a way to do that anyway. Then we got into discussions with the IRS about what we could and couldn’t do, and it just sort of dragged on for some period of time. And the ways that Ewing wanted [the succession plan to work], the IRS wouldn’t let us. We were in a position from 1993 when he died that was like a big holding pattern. There was a lot of things going on then. I had a full-time job in the real world [CEO of Wal-Mart]. But I stayed with it because Ewing asked me to sort of look after things when he was gone to make sure things were done the right way. Then we had the strike, too, right after I got involved. Things were a real mess for a while.”
The bidding process was messy, too, with bids coming in well under the $90 million floor, and other owners having doubts about the sale. Is that when you decided to take on the challenge?
Glass: “I hadn’t really thought seriously about owning a team back then, at least before that. I was really busy with Wal-Mart. But the more I thought about it, and I talked to my family about it, and they all love baseball, then we decided it would be a good thing. It was the right thing to do at the time. I loved Kansas City and the people here were great. It was the right thing.”
Back to 1994, you fought hard, along with the other small-market owners, for a more level playing field. Is baseball getting closer to that?
Glass: “We got revenue sharing, so that helped a lot. In the NFL, whether you’re in a small market like Green Bay or a big market like L.A. or New York, you got the same opportunity with basically the same revenue. You’ll never have that in baseball. But you’ll have more of it now than before. The Royals are a great example of how a small-market team can win it all. It’s not as easy. You can’t go out and sign a lot of big-time free agents and put together a team. You’ve got to draft and develop and do it that way. But it can work. We’ll never have total parity in baseball, but small markets can be competitive and win.”
What will you remember about your time here?
Glass: “I have enjoyed these past 20 years as much as I’ve enjoyed anything. I’ve enjoyed the business world, but I’m a baseball junkie. I still remember going to my first Major League game in 1946 [in St. Louis]. I got hooked. I just loved how they kept the grass and how the infield didn’t have any rocks on it. I already loved baseball, but that really attracted me to Major League Baseball. I’ve followed it closely ever since. I always wanted to be a Major League player. But I wasn’t good enough to play. So, Gene Autry told me one time, ‘If you’re not good enough to play baseball, the next best thing is to buy the team.’ That’s what he did with the Angels. I’m going to miss this. The World Series runs were so enjoyable. But there’s so much stress and so much pressure during the World Series, that you almost wish you could slow it down a little bit so you could enjoy it more as you’re going through it, rather than being so tense. But great memories. And I think John Sherman will win more World Series.”
Would Mr. K be pleased with what you did here?
Glass: “I think so. I think he would look at what we were able to do, to keep baseball thriving here in Kansas City and to win another World Series, he would be pleased.”