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Naimoli, MLB: Rays in good financial shape

Both deny New York paper's report that Major League Baseball has to guarantee a loan to team.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 7, 2002

NEW YORK -- In response to another anonymous-sourced story curiously originating from New York, Major League Baseball president Robert DuPuy said Saturday the commissioner's office is satisfied with the Rays' efforts to improve their financial situation and has no reason to think the team is facing looming trouble.

"Tampa Bay, like a lot of markets, is working very hard to make economic ends meet," DuPuy said. "(Managing general partner Vince Naimoli) is attempting to do that. He's cut some expenses, as you know, and he's attempting to generate revenues. They're off to a good start, and we're hoping that increases ticket sales. The commissioner is satisfied with their efforts."

The Daily News reported Saturday that "Major League Baseball recently had to guarantee a $20-million loan the Devil Rays took out with CitiCorp for operating expenses." The News also quoted a baseball source saying other owners were "livid" because Naimoli had led them to believe the Rays were on solid financial ground, then needed the loan to make ends meet.

Naimoli and DuPuy said the report was wrong, that the loan has been in place for about a year, that MLB in no way guaranteed it, and that virtually all teams have similar arrangements, allowing them to borrow when revenues are down, such as during long road trips, and pay back when revenues are strong.

"There was no Major League Baseball guarantee, no owners are livid and there was nothing done recently," DuPuy said. "It was just bad information on the part of the Daily News."

The only involvement MLB had, DuPuy said, was when CitiCorp wanted to know what would happen if the Rays were to be contracted and MLB indicated the loan would be taken care of as part of the contraction process.

Naimoli was disturbed enough to call the writer of the article, Bill Madden, at home on Saturday morning. But, in his new kinder and gentler style, he waited until just after 7.

It was the third story within in the past year to originate from New York suggesting the Rays are having financial problems. Naimoli clearly is wondering why it keeps happening.

"On advice of counsel, all I will say is that the story is untrue," Naimoli said. "It's just another untrue statement from an unsubstantiated unnamed source who apparently has some private agenda which is unknown to us. And, basically, all I can say is there is a lot of jealousy in this world."

DuPuy said MLB had "no information" to think the Rays will have trouble paying bills, making payroll or meeting other financial obligations. "Absolutely not," Naimoli said. "We're in fine financial shape."

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