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VOL. 128 | NO. 224 | Friday, November 15, 2013

Cardinals Announce AutoZone Deal Before Council Vote

By Bill Dries

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The St. Louis Cardinals baseball organization has a tentative deal with the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation and the city of Memphis in which the Major League Baseball organization would buy the Memphis Redbirds team and city would buy AutoZone Park.

The Cardinals front office announced the two-part transaction in a press release Friday, Nov. 15, mentioning that the sale of the ballpark to the city hinges on the Memphis City Council’s approval.

“On Dec. 3, I will encourage City Council to approve this agreement, which I believe will bring renewed excitement and energy to Memphis and our beloved Redbirds,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. is quoted as saying in the press release.

The agreement calls on all sides to close the transaction by the end of December, according to the Cardinals organization, which also said Fundamental Advisors LP, the sole bondholder of the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation, will retire the original bonds issued in the late 1990s by the Memphis Center City Revenue Finance Corp.

“Fundamental has agreed to take a significant discount on the original principal amount of the bonds as part of this transaction,” reads the Cardinals’ release.

The team also quotes Laurence Gottlieb, chairman and CEO of Fundamental Advisors, as agreeing to the deal.

“The time is right to turn the stadium back over to the great city of Memphis, and to leave the team in the hands of the world-class St. Louis Cardinals organization,” Gottlieb said. “We will be cheering from the sidelines.”

The Cardinals would sign a “long term lease agreement” with the city to use AutoZone Park, and according to the Cardinals press release, there would be a “significant capital investment in AutoZone Park to add features that will significantly improve the overall fan experience.” The release does not say who would pay for those features.

That is certain to be among the questions council members ask when they get a presentation on Dec. 3. The council questions could come up Tuesday, Nov. 19, during council committee sessions before any formal presentation. That is the same day the Redbirds and Cardinals organizations are scheduled to present the deal at AutoZone Park in an invitation-only event.

Council procedures call for items to be presented in committee and then voted on by the full council at its next meeting two or three weeks later. That would put a vote on the deal on the agenda for the Dec. 17 council session, its last meeting of 2013. However, the council in the last year has routinely added items from committee sessions to the agenda of its voting meeting later in the same day.

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