Jerry

Not Breaking: Reinsdorf US Cell Boondoggle Lawsuit Dismissed

Five months ago, while his White Sox were in full June swoon, Jerry Reinsdorf was celebrating victory. Unreported and unnoticed, with the silent efficiency of a mob hit, the lawsuit against the White Sox chairman brought by an ex-government employee was weighted down and left for dead in a river of motions, minutes, and memorandums.

In April 2013, Perri Irmer filed an impassioned claim with a local district court arguing that her individual rights had been violated in a wrongful firing, but the case was a larger indictment on behalf of taxpayers against the enigmatic Reinsdorf, his goose, and his golden egg.

The goose is the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. In her lawsuit, former ISFA CEO Irmer affirmed what those of us who have been paying attention have long suspected: that the ISFA—the government agency created by the state of Illinois allegedly to promote jobs and economic development through investment in sports stadiums—is in practice an entity that mobilizes public funds in the interest of Reinsdorf and his White Sox ownership partners.

Reinsdorf’s golden egg is US Cellular Field. The White Sox home ballpark was built, renovated, and is maintained with public money. Taxes pay for upwards of fifty million in bond debt and stadium upkeep annually while the White Sox pay one or two million dollars in “rent” or “ticket fees,” or whatever they happen to be calling the pittance in any given year.

Irmer was in charge of ISFA operations from 2004 to 2011. Early in her tenure she recognized that the White Sox stadium agreement with the ISFA and state of Illinois was “abusive to taxpayers.” And so Irmer sought to reduce costs of ballpark management, earn more revenue for the state at US Cellular Field from events such as concerts, develop public land around the park, and make White Sox games more accessible to members of surrounding south side communities.

According to Irmer, Reinsdorf didn’t like her proposals because they cut into his bottom line. US Cellular as a music venue would compete with the United Center, which is owned by Reinsdorf (and incidentally, way undertaxed). More businesses near the ballpark would mean less revenue for White Sox ownership inside the facility. And Reinsdorf opposed lower-class people of color at US Cellular Field because they undermined the White Sox “brand.”

Irmer also fought against additional public funds being diverted to Reinsdorf and the White Sox. She opposed the Bacardi at the Park agreement in 2010, in which Reinsdorf received both state money to build a restaurant outside of US Cellular Field and all the revenues generated from the bibulous White Sox fans therein. And when Reinsdorf asked for $7 to $10 million additional tax dollars for renovations in 2011, Irmer balked again. Despite Irmer’s protests however, Reinsdorf got his (extra) millions in both cases.

By Irmer’s account, insiders knew that she wanted to make people in power aware of the ISFA’s wastefulness to taxpayers and Reinsdorf’s undue influence over ISFA decision makers. But few were willing to listen. In late-2010 and early-2011 Irmer attempted to meet with Governor Pat Quinn but was rebuffed by his staff. She had a meeting scheduled with Mayor Rahm Emanuel on April 28, 2011. However, four days before the meeting date, Irmer arrived at work to find herself locked out of her office. She was terminated by the ISFA Board two days after that.

None of these facts or events were disputed in the judge’s opinion on the case. Instead, Irmer’s lawsuit was thrown out because the judge ruled she had not adequately argued that her civil rights had been violated. Unfortunately, collusion is hard to prove, having clout is not illegal, and by law Jerry Reinsdorf has the right to act in his own business interests.

Meanwhile, no one is acting in the public’s interest as the major stakeholders in the ISFA and US Cellular Field, and that is seriously troubling.

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Jerry Reinsdorf Caught Doing His Thing

This post originally appeared on The Catbird Seat.

By Chris Lamberti and James Fegan

Jerry Reinsdorf and his foibles are a bit of a pet topic for James Fegan and Chris Lamberti, so they couldn’t resist taking some time out to discuss his recent brush with national prominence.

James: Last week, we were treated to New York Times reports that Jerry Reinsdorf is mobilizing against the peaceful, albeit highly nepotistic, transition of the commissioner-ship from Sir Bud, the Mad King to his loyal right hand Rob Manfred.

Chris: In a showdown that Jeff Passan describes as a power grab, Reinsdorf intends on blocking the confirmation of Selig’s hand-picked successor Manfred as commissioner of Major League Baseball. Manfred is a commissioner’s office insider who has the experience, credentials, and personality to woo owners and keep the baseball money train a-chuggin. However, Reinsdorf, who has always fancied himself a small-market owner operating in a big city (this position is debatable but that’s another story) considers Manfred a “sinner” in two ways according to Passan:

Manfred recognizes the large markets ultimately run the game because they’re the ones that generate massive revenue. That one is forgivable because, well, it’s true. More egregious is this: Manfred calls Reinsdorf out on his politicking. And the only thing more dangerous than a powerful man is one who tells the truth about how he lassoed that power.

The surprise is that Reinsdorf is pitting himself against Selig; the two have been described often as old pals. Apparently Reinsdorf’s chumminess with Selig was contingent upon having a direct line to the commissioner’s office. Now that Manfred is threatening not to extend Reinsdorf the same courtesy, Bud is dead to Jerry.

Continue reading

JerryR

On Jerry Reinsdorf and Donald Sterling

When the psychotic ranting of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling went public this week, I think we all felt a little ashamed that such a person a) lived and breathed and b) was somehow richer than everyone everywhere. But the moment that NBA Commissioner Adam Sliver banned Sterling from the league for life, our horror and embarrassment turned into collective celebration. Racists be banished! Our faith in society restored!

Rejoicing came from sports team owners who are not vomitous cultural anachronisms, including our own Jerry Reinsdorf (and son Michael):

We completely support Commissioner Silver’s decision today regarding Clippers owner Donald Sterling … The league’s decision underscores the severity and reprehensible nature of the comments attributed to Donald Sterling … Discrimination and prejudice of any kind have no place in sports or in our society.

Who would disagree? But “discrimination and prejudice” take many forms. Bigoted language is one of the obvious manifestations but there are others that are more insidious. Because in the end, racism (like sexism) is about power: or one “race” wielding and maintaining power over another. And this is a project in which Jerry Reinsdorf actively takes part. Continue reading

Adam Eaton: Blue Collar Hero?

Originally posted at The Catbird Seat on April 15, 2014.

White Sox centerfielder Adam Eaton is a blue-collar player playing in the blue-collar collar part of town. Just ask him.

“[W]e play on the South Side,” said Eaton shortly after the start of the season. “Those are blue-collar people, it’s our job to give them a show and give them 110 percent.” Because working-class people demand unattainable proportions of effort!

The week before, Eaton called the Sox “A hard-nosed team on the blue-collar side of town.” And as far back as SoxFest the former Diamondback was telling the media, “I want to be the blue-collar player.”

Eaton is not alone; he’s just the latest manifestation of White Sox blue-collar hero with an affinity for the local proletariat.

For example, Jake Peavy said last season “I love, love our fan base. I love the blue-collar attitude…because that’s who I am, that’s the way I was raised.”

Sometimes the media gets in on the act, like when Bruce Levine wrote last year that Paul Konerko “has always been ‘The Man’ of the blue-collar White Sox fan base.”

My question for the purveyors of White Sox blue-collar enthusiasm: Who have you been hanging out with? Continue reading

money

Despite Solid Effort, Sox Barely Lost Money in 2013 (According to Forbes)

Originally posted at The Catbird Seat on March 29, 2014.

The annual Forbes MLB team valuations came out this week, and for the first time since Jose Canseco’s bulging trapezii were mercilessly fatiguing the seams of a White Sox uniform back in 2001, the business publication has estimated an operating loss for owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Co.; the club was $2.7 million in the red in 2013 they say.

The Forbes valuations are a yearly team-by-team estimated market value and financial snapshot report. After last year (or ‘fiscal’ as they like to say in the accounting biz), Forbes ranks the White Sox as the 14th most valuable franchise in baseball, falling from 11th last year and after being as high as 10th in previous seasons.

In the past I’ve used Forbes valuations to argue (although guardedly) for the sound and ever-improving financial health of Chicago sports franchises. I’ll continue to do that. Here’s why: Continue reading