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News

New team will run PGE Park and PFE

10/10/01

DAVID AUSTIN

and SCOTT LEARN

The Goldklang Group, whose off-beat president has spawned ball park stunts from a vasectomy giveaway to pigs romping around the field, will take over the business operations of Portland Family Entertainment and PGE Park.

PFE's limited partners also have reached a severance agreement with Marshall Glickman and Mark Gardiner, formerly PFE's top day-to-day managers. The two men resigned their positions effective Tuesday.

Glickman is a former National Basketball Association executive and son of Portland Trail Blazer founder Harry Glickman. Gardiner is a former finance official with Portland. The pair confirmed last month that PFE would lose millions of dollars in its first year of putting teams on the field.

Peter Stott, a PFE limited partner who is president and CEO of Crown Pacific, would not release details of Glickman's and Gardiner's agreements or their former salaries.

But he said that the new management would cost PFE "far less" money, and partner contributions will cover the severance payments.

Goldklang will "turn a profit from day one," Stott said. The group will quickly pay off all of PFE's creditors, he said, with an additional contribution from limited partners that city officials expect to be $1.5 million.

Goldklang operates seven other minor league baseball teams. It is owned by a consortium that includes its namesake, New Jersey banker Marvin Goldklang, a limited partner with the New York Yankees. Other investors include actor Bill Murray and Mike Veeck, whose family has deep and eccentric roots in professional baseball.

Veeck, the son of legendary baseball team owner and promoter Bill Veeck, is well known in baseball circles. Mike Veeck hit a figurative foul ball in 1979 when he staged "Disco Demolition Night" at a Chicago White Sox doubleheader. The event, featuring the smashing of disco records, spiraled out of control and forced the White Sox to forfeit a game after a near riot.

Since then his more successful promotions have included handing out certificates for free vasectomies on Father's Day, a "Salute to Duct Tape" night, launching hot dogs into the stands with air bazookas, Voodoo Night and using pigs to carry baseballs onto the field.

Veeck will spend about five days a month in Portland, heading up the marketing and promotional efforts for PFE. He'll be "speaking at every service club and radio station and TV station that he can," said Mark Schuster, a Goldklang executive who will serve as president of PFE.

Fans can expect to see Murray on local golf courses, he said.

"I think we're going to push the envelope," said Schuster, who will move to Portland to run PFE. "Our job is to create an atmosphere where people can come to the ball park and escape for three hours. It's about fun and sometimes people forget that."

All of Goldklang's baseball teams are profitable, Schuster said. The group turned around a number of unprofitable teams, he said, including the RiverDogs in Charleston, S.C., where Goldklang lives.

"I don't think we'd be involved unless we saw a tremendous upside with what PFE has tried to put together," Schuster said. "It's a market with a great hometown feel."

Under the new agreement, Goldklang will serve as interim manager of PFE and the ball park until city officials give final approval to the management change.

The city owns PGE Park and put $33 million into renovating it as part of a 2-year-old agreement with PFE to operate the stadium. PFE used loans and partner contributions to buy the Triple-A Portland Beavers, the Portland Timbers, an A-League soccer franchise and a Single-A baseball team that it moved from Portland to Pasco, Wash.

PFE also contributed $5.5 million to the stadium renovation. PFE pays the city rent, a cut of ticket sales and a portion of the profits.

The city originally projected that PFE would make $2.3 million in its first year. Instead, lower-than-expected ticket sales, unexpected start-up costs and high administrative expenses have led to millions of dollars in losses.

Despite the financial woes, Glickman and Gardiner said they feel good about their involvement with the park. Neither would say how much they were to be paid under the severance agreements, but Gardiner will remain a limited partner in the operation.

Glickman said he will look for work outside of the Portland area.

"We have put four years into creating a great new venue for Portland," said Glickman, who will serve as proxy for his father, also a limited partner. "We look forward to the bright future of PGE Park."

Portland officials reacted cautiously to news of the management switch.

"We will be reviewing Goldklang's qualifications and the proposed restructuring of the partnership," said Sam Adams, Mayor Vera Katz's chief of staff. "We will be making a determination within a week or so. In the meantime, we continue to pursue a look at the PFE books, a review of their fiscal systems, their turnaround plans and plans to pay creditors."

As long as the Goldklang Group is working out, the partners will not try to sell PFE, the Beavers or the Timbers, Stott said. But Stott would not rule out a sale of the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Pasco team that has been a financial albatross for PFE.

Schuster said Goldklang officials are aware that the relationship between PFE and the city needs work. The group's other seven teams operate in public-private partnerships with cities, he said.

"It's very normal for us to share information with city governments," Schuster said. "And we need to improve those lines of communication."

You can reach David Austin by phone at 503-294-5910 or by e-mail at davidaustin@news.oregonian.com. You can reach Scott Learn by phone at 503-221-8564 or by e-mail at scottlearn@news.oregonian.com.

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