KANSAS CITY -- A new era of Royals baseball is about to begin.
On Friday, the Royals confirmed an agreement by owner David Glass and his family to sell the club to Kansas City businessman and Cleveland Indians minority owner John Sherman. The deal will need approval by the other MLB owners, likely at their meetings in November.
Sherman will also have to divest his interest in the Indians if the deal is approved, which, according to a source, is expected to occur. The deal reportedly is for about $1 billion, though club officials would not confirm the sales price. Discussions on the deal began near the end of 2018, according to two sources.
Glass was the hand-picked successor to run the Royals after the team’s original owner, Ewing Kauffman, died in 1993. Glass oversaw Kauffman’s succession plan, which mandated that the proceeds from a sale of the club went directly to charity. Glass, after an unsuccessful attempt to find other suitable owners, purchased the team himself for $96 million in 2000.
Now after 20 years of ownership and a 2015 World Series title, Glass is hoping to turn the reins over to an avid baseball fan in Sherman, a former Royals season ticket-holder who will keep the team thriving in Kansas City.
“The decision to sell the Royals was difficult for our family,” Glass said in a statement. “Our goal, which I firmly believe we’ve achieved, was to have someone local, who truly loved the game of baseball and who would be a great steward for this franchise going forward. In John Sherman, we have found everything we were looking for in taking ownership of this franchise.”
How big of a Royals fan is Sherman?
In 2017, Sherman told the Kansas City Business Journal that he happened to have planned a vacation in Europe during the Royals-Giants World Series. But he kept getting up in the middle of the night to watch the games.
Finally, Sherman’s wife, Marny, told him to go home early. He did. He flew from Paris back to Kansas City and caught Games 6 and 7 at Kauffman Stadium.
Besides being a fan, Sherman has admitted to being fascinated by the professional sports industry. He is friends with Paul Edgerley, a part owner of the Boston Celtics, who is someone that Sherman leaned on before investing in the Indians.
"He helped me think about professional sports, how it's a long-term investment," Sherman told Cleveland.com in 2016. "It's really a community asset. You always have to remember that."
It is that commitment to the community that attracted Glass to Sherman as a potential owner of the Royals.
“John has made a huge impact in our business community and is so passionate about baseball that he purchased an ownership stake in the Cleveland Indians three years ago to begin his relationship with this great game,” Glass said. “We are truly blessed to have someone of John’s stature and business acumen available to us from the metropolitan area to take the reins of this organization going forward.”
Sherman’s management style has been described as “not hands-off,” but also not an “overbearing hands-on.”
“Anyone with a new purchase is going to want to get in and find out everything,” a source said, “and find out why things are done the way they are. But his style is more supportive than anything else.”
Sherman, 64, has had his footprint in Kansas City for over 40 years. He launched two successful gas and energy-based companies in Inergy and LPG Services Group, the latter of which merged with Dynergy. Inergy also merged with Crestwood Holdings, and Sherman still serves on that board of directors. He eventually sold off controlling interest of his companies.
“I am enormously grateful to David and the Glass family for this extraordinary opportunity,” Sherman said in his statement, “and am humbled by the chance to team up with a distinguished group of local investors to carry forward and build on this rich Kansas City Royals legacy. Our goal will be threefold: To compete for a championship on behalf of our fans; to honor their passion, their experience and their unwavering commitment; and to carry their hopes and dreams forward in this great Kansas City region we all love -- for decades to come.”
Sherman’s ties to Kansas City are well-known. He has chaired the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, and the Truman Library Institute; he is also a trustee of both the Kauffman Foundation and the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
In 2014, Sherman was inducted into the inaugural class of the University of Missouri's Bloch School of Business Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame with a group that included Kauffman and Lamar Hunt, the late founder of the American Football League (AFL) and former owner of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Glass’ legacy will include his commitment to keep MLB in Kansas City during the rough patch in the 1990s, as well as his back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015 that culminated in a championship and a parade in downtown Kansas City.
“Mr. Glass has been an unbelievable mentor to me and others in this organization,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “He is a man of integrity. He reached out to the one person who most represents what Mr. K stood for and what the Glass family stands for today.”
Selling the team is bittersweet for Glass.
“It has been an amazing run since we gained control of the franchise in 2000,” Glass said in his statement. “I will miss this more than anyone realizes because I grew up loving this great game and was awarded a fantastic opportunity to own one of the 30 Major League clubs. We watched this club painfully come up 90-feet short in 2014 and then ultimately win that coveted World Series trophy in 2015. I will never forget the thrill of seeing over 800,000 people of this community come together on one sunny November day to salute the newly-crowned World Champions.
"It’s been a fantastic ride and I want to thank our great fans for supporting us through the years, but now it’s time for someone else to oversee this franchise into its next championship and in John Sherman, we’ve found the perfect individual.”