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Suns sold to L.A. group

December 06, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The owner of the Hagerstown Suns has agreed to sell the minor league baseball team to a Los-Angeles based company for an undisclosed amount.

The sale to Mandalay Sports Entertainment is contingent on approval by baseball governing bodies.

Andrew Rayburn, 45, owner of Ohio-based Big Game Capital, said Thursday his decision to sell the team is unrelated to the fact he couldn't convince local government officials to fund a new baseball stadium.

Rayburn said it was a matter of not wanting to turn down an excellent business offer by the Los Angeles-based Mandalay Sports Entertainment, which owns three other minor league baseball teams.

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"It is a situation where an unsolicited phone call came out of the blue. The right deal presented itself," Rayburn said.

Rayburn said the decision to sell the team was "loosely related" to financial problems resulting from investments he made.

Rayburn was one of about 110 clients of an investment broker who was accused of stealing up to $300 million from portfolios.

Rayburn has refused to say how much he lost as a result of transactions with the broker.

But, he said, "It is a good time to unload the team."

Rayburn bought the South Atlantic League Class A Suns in June 2001 from former owner Winston Blenckstone for an undisclosed sum.

Rayburn also owns the Daytona Cubs, a Single-A team in the Florida State League, and he has no plans to sell that team, he said.

Mandalay approached him about buying the Suns about six weeks ago, he said.

Mandalay has not yet filed its application with the league or contacted Hagerstown city officials about the proposed change in ownership. The team has a one-year lease, which expires Dec. 31, 2003, to play ball in the city-owned Municipal Stadium.

If the agreement is approved, the team would not change hands until about April, he said.

Mandalay has no intention of moving the team from Hagerstown, Mandalay spokesman Kevin Mortesen said.

It is too early to speculate on whether the company would push for a new baseball stadium, he said. Both Rayburn and Blenckstone wanted a new stadium for the team.

Mortesen said the company is impressed with the current management and has asked General Manager Kurt Landes and other staff to continue working for the team.

Landes said he is looking forward to working for Mandalay.

Mandalay's chairman, Peter Guber, is a former chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and is a Hollywood producer.

"They bring a lot of experience to the table. Minor league baseball is all about entertainment," Landes said.

"We are real fortunate. Both ownerships are class acts and have great reputations," Landes said.

Suns fans probably will see no difference as a result of the expected change in ownership, he said. Promotions that started last season will continue, he said.

Gary Deweerd, president of the team's fan club, said the team's ownership is not usually a matter of concern for the fans. The club has about 300 members.

"We are here to support the team whoever owns it," he said.

Rayburn said he has enjoyed his affiliation with the Suns.

"I like Hagerstown. We had a good experience," he said.

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