Sherman purchase approved; new era on the horizon



November 22, 2019 - 3:44 PM

The Kansas City Royals play host to the Baltimore Orioles in a game in 2018. JOHN SLEEZER/KANSAS CITY STAR/TNS

ARLINGTON, Texas — John Sherman wore a dark gray suit with a purple tie on the biggest day of his public life. He can never again just be a self-made billionaire who married a Kansas City woman and made her hometown his.

He is now and will be forever known as the third owner in the 51-year history of the Royals, his purchase of the club for a reported $1 billion or more officially approved by unanimous vote in a second-floor boardroom Thursday at a new luxury hotel next door to the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred effectively confirmed The Star’s reporting that Sherman’s previous stake in the Indians included an agreed-upon path for him to control that club. Instead, Sherman gave up both his interest in the Indians and that path to become their next owner to buy the Royals.

“I’m deeply appreciative of the commissioner’s office and my fellow owners for their confidence and trust in the vote today,” he said. “It’s a responsibility that I’ll take very seriously.”

Those words came at a news conference with Manfred shortly after the vote. Sherman took no questions. Another news conference is scheduled for noon Tuesday in Kansas City after the sale is made complete with a money transfer.

Sherman has deep ties in Kansas City, including with the Kauffman Center and Teach for America. He has been named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and along with Royals founder Ewing Kauffman and Chiefs/AFL founder Lamar Hunt was inducted into the inaugural class of UMKC’s Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame.

He is expected to keep as his general manager Dayton Moore, with whom he’s worked extensively over the last year or so both in terms of learning about the franchise and reviewing baseball decisions like the recent hire of new manager Mike Matheny.

But beyond that, his leadership is a bit of a blank slate. Many who know him paint a picture of a pragmatist who can also accept risk, of a leader who doesn’t usually speak first but asks researched questions with intent (sometimes to gauge the other side’s research) and a lifelong baseball fan who views a major league team as a community asset.

Manfred described Sherman as “a uniter … bringing people together,” and said Sherman’s experience with the Indians should diminish the usual year-or-so learning curve for most owners.

“I think compared to most ownership transfers John has a unique advantage,” Manfred said. “He had a three-year indoctrination with the Indians. The Indians are regarded to be a very well-run and obviously very competitive on-the-field organization. I think the opportunity to function inside a quality major league organization gives John the unique opportunity to take over in Kansas City and not miss a step.”

This is just the second time the Royals have changed ownership, and just the third ownership change for any modern Kansas City pro franchise.

The Chiefs have been owned by the Hunt family from the beginning, Cerner co-founders Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig bought what is now Sporting Kansas City from Lamar Hunt in 2006, and David Glass bought the Royals from a trust set up according to Kauffman’s wishes in 2000.

Glass took a lot of criticism over the years in Kansas City, particularly for his first six years after purchasing the club. They lost 100 or more games four times in those years, including 310 losses from 2004 to 2006.

The franchise was rudderless during that time, run in largely the same way and with mostly the same people who oversaw a precipitous fall, both on the field and off, in the years between Kauffman’s death and Glass’ purchase.

Glass was largely defiant in the face of that criticism, even after the Royals finally found their way. But in a sort of exit interview with The Star recently, he essentially accepted that criticism, saying “We probably could have accelerated the resurgence to a greater extent than we did.”