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Too Many Bucks For The Bucs?

Up Front


The seemingly endless baseball strike is hitting especially hard at a handful of teams: those up for sale. Four are officially on the block: the California Angels, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Minnesota Twins say they are not out hustling the club but are "entertaining offers."

The strike has lopped off around 20% of a team's value, according to Paul Much, an analyst with Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin, a Chicago investment firm. So the for-sale teams indicate they likely will wait until the work stoppage is over.

The exception is the Pirates, who are under pressure to sell soon. The team faces a Jan. 29 deadline to find a buyer who pledges to keep it in the Iron City. (The date was part of the contract when the current owners bought it.) If no buyer emerges, the owners--a consortium of Pittsburgh institutions ranging from Westinghouse to Carnegie Mellon University--will entertain out-of-town offers. Charlotte, N.C., has expressed interest.

The owners want $100 million for the Pirates, but that may be pushing it--and not just because of uncertainty about the 1995 season. A huge player payroll, debt burdens, and a costly contract with the city-owned stadium have produced $40 million in losses for the Bucs over the past five years.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER By Keith L. Alexander

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