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Rayburn says his loss won't hurt Suns

February 15, 2002

Rayburn says his loss won't hurt Suns



By BOB PARASILITI
bobp@herald-mail.com


The Hagerstown Suns will continue to play ball as usual, despite an alleged financial investment scam that eroded some of the assets of the team's new owner.

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Suns owner Andrew Rayburn said Thursday nothing will change in the operation, promotion or objective of the Single-A minor league baseball team as it approaches its 22nd season at Hagerstown Municipal Stadium.

"There's really not a lot for me to tell," Rayburn said in a phone call from his Big Game Capital offices in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, just outside Cleveland. "There's still a lot of things that are going on right now. But I can say for certain that it will be business as usual when it comes to the Suns."

Rayburn was one of 110 clients of investment broker Frank Gruttadauria, who is suspected of stealing up to $300 million from portfolios while working as the manager in the Cleveland office of Lehman Brothers. Gruttadauria surrendered to the FBI last Saturday after a month on the run.

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Rayburn called the incident "a real problem for me," but said he remained strongly behind his business interest in the Suns, the San Francisco Giants affiliate in the South Atlantic League that he officially assumed ownership of on June 1, 2001.

Rayburn said he has not concerned the Suns front office with his personal finances.

"I haven't commented to Kurt (Landes, the team's general manager) about it," he said. "We will continue business as usual. I've been investing in the team, not just with the purchase, but also investing in the marketing and the promotions of the upcoming season."

Rayburn turned Flexalloy Inc. from a $20 million business entity in 1987 into an industry-leading fastener distribution company worth $230 million. It was reported Rayburn had lost nearly $70 million from his account.

Since selling Flexalloy, Rayburn has purchased the Daytona Cubs, the Single-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs in the Florida State League, along with the Suns.

"Everything right now is way too preliminary for me to say anything," Rayburn said. "I just don't know everything yet. We are moving forward with the season."

Rayburn has been talking to City of Hagerstown officials, trying to get a new stadium for the Suns. The recent chain of events won't change Rayburn's objective, he said.

"We haven't progressed as far as I would like yet," he said. "We aren't to the point where we have made any firm discussions about financing a stadium. Part of the equation is for me to make a contribution to building it and I'm all for it. I can still do things like that yet."

Rayburn said the financial situation has made him anticipate his first full season as owner of the Suns even more.

"I think this season will be a lot of fun," he said. "Kurt has got a lot of things put together and he has a lot of things going in the community that will be new and exciting. All the rhetoric people had been hearing from us since we bought the team will start to become reality, starting with the home opener on April 8."

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