NEW YORK (AP) -- Three former baseball commissioners think that when Bud Selig arranged for a company controlled by Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad to loan $3 million to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1995, the deal may have violated baseball rules.
A trio of current owners see no problem with the loan.
"It's such a treacherous thing," former commissioner Fay Vincent said Tuesday. "It would raise in my mind all sorts of concerns."
Vincent said the loan was unprecedented, as did former commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. All three said it might have broken the rules.
Former players' association head Marvin Miller said it was a clear violation, although Selig's lawyer said there was nothing improper, a view also taken by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane and New York Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon.
Selig was president and chief executive officer of the Milwaukee Brewers at the time, as well as baseball's acting commissioner.
Selig, elected commissioner in July 1998, is behind the plan to eliminate two teams before next season, most likely the Twins and Montreal Expos. Pohlad could receive more in a contraction buyout than he would if he sold the franchise.
The loan, first reported Tuesday by The Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, was made by Tempus Investment Corp., one of Pohlad's companies.
Selig personally put up a minimum of $795,000 of money-market funds as collateral and the Brewers guaranteed the full amount. The loan was made in June or July 1995, according to Bob DuPuy, Selig's lawyer and baseball's chief legal officer. DuPuy said the loan was at 10.5 percent interest -- 1.5 percent above the prime rate at the time -- and it was repaid within 90 days when the Brewers secured longtime financing from Nationsbank Inc.
"This, in my view, was a loan made by a bank at arm's length in the ordinary course of business," DuPuy said. "It would be different if Carl was lending the money, but this was a regulated financial institution lending money. No one was particularly troubled by it."
Selig and Pohlad did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
"Even if you believe that major league baseball should be insulated from antitrust laws -- which I don't -- this is the kind of questionable behavior that could make you think twice," said Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat who has been critical of Selig's contraction plan.
Major League Rule 20 (c) states: "No club or owner, stockholder, officer, director or employee (including manager or player) of a club shall, directly or indirectly, loan money to or become surety or guarantor for any club, officer, employee or umpire of its, his or her league, unless all facts of the transaction shall first have been fully disclosed to all other clubs in that league and also to the commissioner, and the transaction has been approved by them."
McLane, who learned of the loan Tuesday, said that many teams were scrambling for money at the time.
"The agreement, I think, was honorable and ethical," he said. "I don't see any way this can be construed as something that wasn't fair and legal and honorable. It was an honest deal. If anyone got an advantage in the deal, it was the Pohlad banking company, because they got a solid loan above the prime interest rate at the time."
Reinsdorf said he found out about the loan the following year.
"We have a lot of rules we don't necessarily enforce all the time," Reinsdorf said. "What is the big deal? It was for a short time, 45 or 60 days. Everybody would have voted for it had it come up. To me, it's a like a cop sees a guy going 62 (mph) in a 55 zone. You let him go. What's the harm?"
Miller took the opposite view.
"It's really horrifying," he said. "This is a violation of baseball rules by an owner who is also the commissioner."
Rule 20 (c) is one of baseball's protections against one team having unfair influence over another.
"I don't know of another case where an owner lent money to another without approval. I don't know of a case where an owner lent money with approval," said Vincent, who was ousted in 1992 by a Selig-backed group of owners.
DuPuy said that earlier in 1995, bankers were approved as part of Arizona's ownership group that had arranged loans to other teams to players. He said concessionaires who are limited partners of some teams, such as Aramark Worldwide Corp., lend money to clubs they have financial interests with.
"This was just coming off a strike," DuPuy said. "Everybody was scrambling when it came to finances. There was less scrutiny given to sources of funds at that time."
Wilpon said criticism of the loan was "outrageous."
"You're talking about two men of the highest, highest integrity," Wilpon said. "I'm offended by making it a cause celebre. It pains me."
Selig said eliminating the Twins would not result in a significant increase in attendance or TV viewership for the Brewers.
The contraction plan has been stalled by an injunction issued by a Minnesota judge, an order Selig and the Twins asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn.
Selig became controlling owner of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970. Following Vincent's ouster, Selig became chairman of baseball's executive council, which took over the powers of the commissioner. In that capacity, Selig was baseball's acting commissioner until owners formally gave him the job in July 1998.
Selig put the voting rights for his Brewers' shares in trust when he became commissioner and the team's management was taken over by his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb.
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