McClatchy benched as Bucs chief
The change must be approved by major league owners.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Robert Nutting will replace Kevin McClatchy as controlling owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
McClatchy, who headed the group that bought the team before the 1996 season, will remain chief executive officer and in control of the team's day-to-day operations and report to Nutting, the pair said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.
The change must be approved by major league owners, who are scheduled to meet Jan. 17-18 in Phoenix.
Nutting, already the team's chairman of the board, is the son of Wheeling, W.Va., newspaper owner G. Ogden Nutting, whose family has been one of the Pirates' primary investors under McClatchy.
Nutting revealed Friday that his family now owns more than 50 percent -- a "majority share" -- of the team, although he didn't say how long that has been the case. The front office shuffle wasn't prompted by how much of the team the family owns, however, but because of speculation about McClatchy's role and job description.
"There's been historical confusion," Nutting said. "What's Kevin's role? What's his relation to the Nuttings?"
Nutting said Friday's moves should signal to fans that the owners support McClatchy and general manager Dave Littlefield and their plan.
"That's a plan that started to show at the end last year some real hope and we're looking forward to this season," Nutting said.
The Pirates have had 14 straight losing seasons, two shy of the record set by the Philadelphia Phillies from 1933-48, and were 67-95 last year. But the team went 37-35 after the All-Star Game and Nutting is convinced that's because Littlefield and McClatchy's rebuilding plan is coming together.
Nutting said the team has a "fantastic core of young players" -- notably 2004 NL Rookie of the Year Jason Bay and last year's NL batting champ, Freddy Garcia.
"We're going to see a better team this year because the plan is on track, not because we're going to change it."
McClatchy, a millionaire whose family built a newspaper chain starting with The Sacramento Bee, has had as many as 28 partners since he bought the team for about 95 million when he was 32 years old.
Forbes Magazine estimates the franchise is now worth 242 million. As various investors have left the group, others have bought shares, allowing the Nuttings to increase their ownership share.
Team's past owners
If approved, Nutting becomes the sixth principal owner in team history, after Barney Dreyfuss (1900-32), Bill Benswanger (1932-46), John Galbreath (1946-85), Pittsburgh Associates (1985-96) and McClatchy.
Since McClatchy bought the Pirates, the team has struck a deal to use public and private funds to build PNC Park, widely regarded as one of the finest in baseball since it opened in 2001.
But while attendance remains respectable and the Pirates have said they are profitable, the team has never won under McClatchy.
Eleven of the Pirates' 14 straight losing seasons have come under McClatchy -- fueling speculation that he would sell or be forced out. Shortly after last season, McClatchy said he would stay.
McClatchy was hopeful Friday's announcement would end that speculation and improve front-office morale.
"I think there is a negative to the speculation like that, especially for the people that work inside this building," McClatchy said.
"You've got folks who work for you and, you know, they get nervous if they think you're going somewhere."
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.