Please, It's About Time!

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After all, Colangelo is accustomed to this wonderful arrangement.

For 15 years he has manipulated elected officials into steering hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money into building arenas, stadiums and parking garages and then turning over the keys to the facilities to him.

While politicians don't have a personal attachment to taxpayer money they give away, private investors certainly have an attachment to their mega-bucks. And Jerry didn't like the fact that investors, led by Kendrick, demanded that he share power.

The two men butted heads, and Jerry soon found himself out.

"What it really turned on was the simple truth of Jerry's having had a long history of being the ultimate decider, and [then] a new circumstance arose in which he formally . . . did not any longer have that ultimate freedom," Kendrick tells me. "And it was just a difficult environment and one that just didn't work."

Kendrick and his three partners decided it was time for a change, so they forced Jerry out in early August. Nothing personal.

"It's a normal and usual thing in the business world," Kendrick says.

Because Jerry is an icon in Phoenix, the Republic, among others, self-servingly dubbed him a financial guru, who should get practically all of the city's redevelopment money for whatever he wanted to do.

The problem is, I repeat, Jerry not only was not the financial genius the Republic and others billed him, he was a bad businessman when it came to protecting his investors' bottom line.

"The difference is that Jerry has not had the breadth of experience in the business community because he came from the sports community," Kendrick says.

Colangelo, Kendrick says, didn't understand how to work with his business partners, a skill that's essential in any successful profit-making enterprise.

"It is the art of business," Kendrick says. "And Jerry hasn't had the history of ever having to do that."

At the same time, Kendrick tells me he understands that sharing power was a bitter pill for Colangelo, who had never had to compromise during his long run as managing partner of the Phoenix Suns and later the Diamondbacks.

"I am very respectful of the difficulty Jerry was placed into by these changes," he says. "But the changes were agreed upon. Therefore, we had the responsibility of representing not only our own money, but [that of] those people who invested this year. We have brought a lot of new people on board and they have expectations of us and we have fiduciary duties to them."

Chief among the expectations was getting somebody to run the baseball team who understood business and sports. The Diamondbacks appear to have that man in Jeff Moorad, a former players' agent who has replaced Colangelo as the team's chief executive officer. And, unlike Colangelo, Moorad is expected to make a significant financial investment in the team -- $30 million plus.

While the Diamondbacks are heading for 110 losses, ranking them as one of the worst franchises in baseball history, the positive news is: For the first time in the team's seven-year history, it will meet its budget this year.

This is vitally important, if the franchise is to have the financial capability of fielding competitive teams for decades to come. Financial responsibility, Kendrick says, is what it took to attract a talented sports businessman like Moorad.

"He recognizes that he will be partnering with people who have a level of financial discipline," Kendrick says. "He knows we are not a runaway train."

Kendrick understands that the Diamondbacks are a true community asset. The stadium and parking structures were built with $300 million in public funds. The team must rely on the goodwill of the community to thrive. It can't be seen as a team that gouges and exploits fans or a business that doesn't pay its bills on time.

Kendrick believes in Moorad. "He's a bottom-line-oriented kind of guy, and he's a baseball guy at the same time," Kendrick tells me.

The Diamondbacks' future suddenly looks much brighter with Colangelo out of the way. And Phoenix will be far better off without Colangelo calling all the shots on the future of downtown.

There's a new wave of smart business and community leaders who are quickly filling the void as Colangelo shuffles toward the West Valley, where he wants to continue the area's relentless urban sprawl with his unconscionable Douglas Ranch development project that will rely heavily on groundwater.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty