Focus is on Dayton, Dragons’ new owners say

The Dayton Dragons will remain a training ground for future Cincinnati Reds players and continue to provide the entertainment experience that fans have come to embrace, one of the team’s new owners said Monday.

The sale of Dayton’s Class A Minor League Baseball team from its founding ownership group, Mandalay Baseball Properties, to the newly formed Palisades Arcadia Baseball closed less than two weeks ago. The three friends and Harvard graduates who are now the owners of Dayton’s team came to Fifth Third Field Monday to meet with staff, media and community leaders.

In an interview, Nick Sakellariadis — who said he and fellow owner Greg Rosenbaum will serve as co-chairman of the Dragons — reassured the community that he and his fellow owners plan no wholesale changes to the way the Dragons operate. And he praised the executive team that the new owners decided to retain, including president Robert Murphy and executive vice president Eric Deutsch.

“Bob and Eric can now spend 100 percent of their time on Dayton,” Sakellariadis said. “Before, they were spending one-fourth to one-third of their time on other Mandalay Baseball properties.”

Sakellariadis would not rule out the possibility that Palisades Arcadia Baseball LLC — which formed to buy the Dragons — would buy other baseball teams. But he made it clear there is no hurry to do so.

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“The focus in the intermediate term, the next couple of years, is to make sure this transition is working seamlessly,” Sakellariadis said. “I’d say during the next couple of years, it’ll be all Dayton all the time.”

He added that if team president Murphy identifies an investment opportunity where the success of the Dragons could be replicated, the owners would consider such a move. “But we don’t feel a compulsion to buy anything else,” he said.

The owners have declined to reveal the sale price or other terms of the sale.

While neither Sakellariadis, who lives in New York City, nor Rosenbaum, of Bethesda, Md., have direct sports-ownership experience, their third partner, Michael Savit of Boston, is managing partner of the HWS Group, a sports management company that currently owns Minor League Baseball teams in Mobile, Ala., Modesto, Calif., and Niles, Ohio. Sakellariadis said ownership’s combination of business experience and sports-management experience should be an advantage.

Savit said the Dragons are the seventh team that he has had an ownership or management involvement with.

“This is clearly the premier team in Minor League Baseball,” Savit said. “No one else has a 15-year sellout streak.”

The Dragons have placed at the top among all Single-A minor league teams in attendance each season of their existence. The team also has set the all-time consecutive sellout streak in excess of 1,000 consecutive games. And the Cincinnati Reds affiliate has sent more than 66 players to the majors.

Sakellariadis, received both an MBA and law degree from Harvard and recently retired following a 35-year investment banking career at Citigroup-related companies. Rosenbaum, also a Harvard law school graduate, is a Toledo native and president of Palisades Associates, Inc., a merchant banking and investment firm based in Bethesda. A decade ago, Rosenbaum was part of a proposed ownership group that was not awarded ownership rights of the then-new Washington Nationals as the Montreal Expos were preparing to move to the nation’s capital.

Rosenbaum said the experience left him wanting to try again to seek ownership of a baseball team. He and Sakellariadis are big baseball fans as well as being law school classmates in the early 1970s, and both “were looking for a second act” after long banking/investment careers, Sakellariadis has said.

On Monday, Sakellariadis said the partners looked into buying 20 teams before the Dragons were put up for sale. “Dayton just stood out in its high level of customer care. You can feel it when you come into the stadium.

“We really are enthusiastic about being in Dayton and about making sure the fan experience continues to be very special here,” Sakellariadis said.

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