Major minor news today, as the Iowa Cubs have announced that they are being sold. The Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs has been owned by Michael Gartner for the past 22 years, but that’s about to change.
Remember that quietly big story I mentioned this past weekend in the Bullets about a big holdings company that was set to buy up a bunch of minor league teams, including some well-known, premium clubs? Well, yup, this is that. The Iowa Cubs will be part of that bundle of teams.
The Iowa Cubs have entered into an agreement to join Diamond Baseball Holdings.
— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) December 8, 2021
Your first thing to note: this doesn’t change the Cubs’ affiliation with Iowa. That’s still in place, and a change in ownership at the minor league level doesn’t impact the players or the player development or anything like that. All things player development are still directed by the Chicago Cubs organization. Instead, a new ownership at Iowa would impact the game-day experience, the branding, the online stuff, and so on. I suspect Diamond Baseball Holdings is looking to leverage the economies of scale to generate more revenue for these teams than they could on their own (ticketing? media? sports betting? NFTs?).
The Iowa Cubs front office is staying in place for now, too. Only the ownership is moving on.
The Iowa Cubs purchase is one of nine initial minor league purchases for Diamond, as they announced in a press release this morning: Iowa Cubs (Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs), Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals), Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders (Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees), Hudson Valley Renegades (High-A affiliate of the New York Yankees), San Jose Giants (Single-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants), Gwinnett Stripers (Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves), Mississippi Braves (Double-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves), Rome Braves (High-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves), Augusta GreenJackets (Single-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves).
The Triple-A Iowa Cubs are now sister teams with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. *shudder*
Also from the press release:
“Opportunities to move into an ownership position of a sport so steeped in history are increasingly rare, and we are confident this will drive meaningful growth in the Owned Sports Properties segment of our company,” said Mark Shapiro, President of Endeavor. “Just as we’ve done for the UFC, PBR and Euroleague, we see tremendous potential to turbocharge these storied Clubs using the scale and capabilities of Endeavor. Our expertise across sponsorship sales, event operations, licensing, marketing and content creation will bring incredible value to these Clubs, supporting communities across the country who form the backbone of the Professional Development League system.”
Endeavor has appointed two industry leaders, Pat Battle and Peter B. Freund, to oversee Diamond Baseball Holdings. Battle is Executive Chairman of DBH, bringing extensive experience at the local and national level, as well as ownership interest in two PDL Clubs. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Learfield and serves as an advisor to Endeavor across multiple companies. Freund is CEO of DBH, also bringing to the plate experience as a longtime Minor League Baseball owner and operator. Freund most recently consulted with the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball on the transition of Major League Baseball’s licensed affiliates while spearheading the formation of the MLB Draft League.
“We are excited to lead Diamond Baseball Holdings and create new opportunities for Clubs and communities that play an essential role in cultivating America’s favorite pastime,” said Battle and Freund. “We will be global in our ambitions and hyper-local in our approach, and creating incredible fan experiences will remain our number one priority. Additionally, we look forward to providing opportunities for growth to the employees of PDL Clubs whose passion and ingenuity have built the sport through the decades.”
I wouldn’t expect huge changes that you would notice – especially at a distance – right away. But over time, especially if Diamond accumulates more minor league teams, you’ll certainly see differences in the game-day and online experience for these teams (hopefully for the better). Everything at the minor league level is just in such a state of flux right now, from the paring down of affiliated clubs last year to MLB centralizing operations, now to these ownership changes.
For more on the history of the Iowa Cubs, its outgoing ownership, and the implications of this change, see Tommy Birch’s piece here:
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) December 8, 2021