Glass family agrees to sell Royals to John Sherman’s group of investors

David Glass (left) acquired the Royals in April 2000.
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — David Glass and his family had a very specific set of qualities they were searching for in a potential owner when they decided to put the Kansas City Royals on the market. They wanted an astute and successful businessman, someone with local ties who, perhaps most importantly, had a deep love for baseball.

John Sherman fit that description perfectly.

So on Friday, the Glass family announced the sale of the two-time World Series champions to an ownership group led by Sherman in a deal expected to be worth about $1 billion. Sherman and his local co-investors will become only the third owners since Ewing Kauffman founded the club in 1969.

“The decision to sell the Royals was difficult for our family,” said Glass, whose son Dan has served as the Royals’ president. “Our goal, which I firmly believe we’ve achieved, was to have someone local, who truly loved the game of baseball and who would be a great steward for this franchise going forward. In John Sherman we have found everything we were looking for in taking ownership.

The 64-year-old Sherman has lived in Kansas City for more than four decades, even after he bought an interest in the Cleveland Indians. He founded, built and then sold a series of energy companies, and he has remained an influential local businessman, dabbling in agriculture and biosciences.

Sherman, who played quarterback at nearby Ottawa University, is also a well-respected civic leader, even though he keeps a low profile. He has given time and money to the Truman Presidential Library in nearby Independence, the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, and several local schools. He and his wife, Marny, also work with Teach for America and other programs serving underprivileged youth.

“I am enormously grateful to David and the Glass family for this extraordinary opportunity,” Sherman said in a statement, “and am humbled by the chance to team up with a distinguished group of local investors to carry forward and build on this rich Kansas City Royals legacy.

“Our goal will be threefold: to compete for a championship on behalf of our fans; to honor their passion, their experience and their unwavering commitment; and to carry their hopes and dreams forward in this great Kansas City region we all love for decades to come.”

Sherman will need to divest his interest in the Cleveland Indians, believed to be about 30 percent of the franchise, and the deal is subject to the approval of Major League Baseball.

Those hurdles should be cleared before owners vote on the sale at their meeting Nov. 21.

“There’s no way that Mr. Glass and the Glass family would entertain selling this team unless they could find what they believe to be the perfect owner who represents everything they stand for, and would go on and represent what baseball means to Kansas City,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.

Sherman was introduced to Dolan by Steve Greenberg, the son of Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. His financial involvement allowed the Indians to push their payroll over the years, including in 2016, when they acquired All-Star reliever Andrew Miller from the Yankees before the trading deadline.

The Indians proceeded to reach the World Series for the first time since 1997.

“We’re very supportive of John and his group reaching an agreement to acquire ownership of his hometown Kansas City Royals,” Indians president Paul Dolan said. “His acquisition of the Royals is good for the game of baseball and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Before the Indians broke through, the Royals had represented the American League in the previous two Fall Classics, winning their second World Series title when they defeated the New York Mets in 2015. But the back-to-back pennants, and the accompanying rise boom in fan interest, came after a long period of dismal performances that left Glass with a mixed legacy in Kansas City.

On one hand, the 83-year-old longtime Wal-Mart executive and his family kept the club in town following Kauffman’s death in 1993. Glass helped serve as caretaker of the organization until April 2000, when he purchased sole ownership for $96 million — considered a strong bid at the time.

On the other hand, Glass was derided during the Royals’ many 100-loss seasons for being unwilling to spend money on payroll, something he rectified in more recent years. Many fans also viewed him as an absentee owner whose family was more committed to northwest Arkansas than Kansas City.

“He’s one of the most unique people I’ve ever met,” countered Royals manager Ned Yost. “Probably starting in 2012, my whole focus was to win a world championship for him. I didn’t have any understanding or inkling what it would mean to win a championship for the city. I found that out later. But I wanted to win a championship for him. Every waking moment was meant with him in mind.”

Yost said watching Glass raise the World Series trophy at Citi Field in 2015 was “one of the top three highlights of my baseball career, because we had accomplished it for him.”

Glass has reportedly been in declining health, increasing the urgency to find a new owner. The goal all along was to identify someone with ties to Kansas City who would keep the club in town.

“I will never forget the thrill of seeing over 800,000 people of this community come together on one sunny November day to salute the newly crowned world champions. It’s been a fantastic ride,” Glass said, “and I want to thank our great fans for supporting us through the years. But now it’s time for someone else to oversee this franchise into its next championship.”

The sale comes at an opportune time for other reasons, too.

Their local television contract expires after this season, and the Royals are expected to sign a new deal that would double annual rights fees to about $50 million. They also have just 12 years left on their lease at Kauffman Stadium, meaning the push for more renovations or a new ballpark — potentially one in the revitalized downtown area — is expected to begin in the next few years.

On the field, the club is in the midst of a massive rebuilding effort while barreling toward another 100-loss season. But the Royals have a bevy of young prospects rapidly rising through the minors, and the front office is hopeful the Royals will contend within the next two years.

“I heard he’s a former season-ticket holder, so that’s nice to have someone who’s had some love for this city and wants to do what’s best,” said outfielder Alex Gordon, the Royals’ longest-tenured player and a part of both AL championship teams. “This is a great town with great fans. We haven’t been giving them a lot the last few years. Hopefully this is just the start of turning things around.”