Wednesday, April 21, 1999

Behind scenes look (maybe) at Reds deal




BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The meeting came to order — more or less — at precisely 8 p.m. Carl Lindner's lawyers believed the best time to negotiate with Marge Schott was between the cocktail hour and Rivera Live.

        A carton of cigarettes was placed in the center of the conference table, next to an industrial-sized carton of Milk Bones. A calligraphic place card identified the seat nearest the ash tray as reserved for “Marge & Schottzie 02.” Beside the ash tray sat a small blue box containing an elegant cigarette lighter from Tiffany's.

        Lindner's lawyers thought they had thought of everything. They had planned the meeting down to the most trivial detail, determined to close the deal on Schott's sale of the Cincinnati Reds. They clearly did not know with whom they were dealing.

        “Your latest proposal is completely unacceptable,” Schott's attorney declared before the principals took their places. “Unless you are willing to strike the pooper scooper provision right now, we're prepared to walk.”

        There was some stammering in the Lindner camp. Furtive glances were exchanged. Much as the Reds limited partners wanted to wrest control of the baseball club from Schott, they were concerned about additional concessions. If Marge was to maintain a high profile at Cinergy Field, they wanted to be sure it was under strict guidelines.

        (Did the deal really go down this way? Probably not. But nobody's talking for the record. There have been so many anonymous sources on the Reds sale you'd think the story was about a drug bust in Panama. Consequently, we're guessing.)

Another dog day afternoon
        The pooper scooper provision was designed to dissuade her from walking her dog on the field of play. In theory, if Schott were required to clean up after her St. Bernard, she might be more reluctant to trot him out onto the AstroTurf. In reality, there was no way this would fly.

        “This is a deal-breaker,” Schott's attorney said, piercing the silence. “Mrs. Schott's hands must be free to sign autographs and to sneak smokes.”

        After a brief conference with his partners, Lindner nodded to his chief negotiator.

        “Done,” he said, drawing a bold line through the offending clause. “What else?”

        “There's the matter of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,” Schott's lawyer said, sliding into his seat.

        “What about it?”

        “Your proposal provides for Mrs. Schott's continued participation in the Findlay Market Parade. But there's nothing in here that addresses her interest in the Macy's Parade.”

        “Which is?”

        “She wants to ride in the sleigh with Santa Claus.”

        “Huh?”

        “If a transfer of ownership is to take place, Mrs. Schott will have a closet full of red clothes and fewer opportunities to wear them. If she can be cast as Mrs. Claus, she may be able to take a tax deduction on those items Wal-Mart won't exchange.”

        “Is she willing to let Santa keep his beard?”

        “That's negotiable.”

Marge just being Marge
        Schott remained silent as the lawyers haggled, preferring to communicate her instructions in code. Each time she lit a cigarette, her lawyer knew to press his advantage. Each time she stubbed one out, it meant she had reached her bottom line.

        If she happened to rub dog hair on Lindner, however, that was just Marge being Marge.

        Initially, she insisted any sale be contingent on the new owners firing everyone who annoyed her. She later backed down, and reluctantly withdrew the demand that a proposed Reds Museum be named in her honor.

        “What about a statue at the new ballpark?”

        “Absolutely not.”

        “A mural?”

        “Totally out of the question.”

        “A painting?”

        “Not a chance.”

        “This is outrageous,” Schott's lawyer said. “How can you ignore Mrs. Schott's impact on this franchise? How you can you forget all she has done during the last 15 years?”

        Lindner's lawyer sighed, and then he smiled.

        “I wish I knew,” he said.

        Tim Sullivan welcomes your e-mail at tsullivan@enquirer.com.



Sale Stories
Lindner group buys Reds
Big question: Will new regime pay for winning team?
Allen, Bowden appear secure in jobs

Background
Chronology of Schott years
Schott's was paradise lost
Bookkeeper started it all