Red Sox owner John Henry reacted swiftly Thursday to deny a report that he was considering selling the team, saying he was committed to the franchise now and in the future.
The Fox Business Network reported that Henry and his partners were “quietly shopping” the team to potential buyers. The story suggested that the Fenway Sports Group did not have the financial resources to operate the Red Sox and the Liverpool Football Club in England and would sell the Sox as a result.
No specific sources were cited in the highly speculative piece beyond “people with direct knowledge of the matter.”
“A sale of any kind is so far from our thinking it hasn’t even come up apart from technical planning issues involving death or disability,” Henry said. “This report is completely without foundation.
“Regarding unnamed sources: Any sale discussions that may have taken place were missing three key people — Larry [Lucchino], Tom [Werner], and me. The Sox and any of the other components of FSG are not for sale and will not be for the foreseeable future.”
Werner, the team chairman, also reacted strongly.
“There’s not a scintilla of truth to it,” he said. “We’re not selling the team. I don’t know what else I can say.”
Lucchino referred to the idea as “nonsense.” Henry later told WEEI that Lucchino had signed a contract to remain as the team president.
Several Red Sox executives, including chief operating officer Sam Kennedy, denied the idea that there have been discussions about a sale.
“John, Tom, and Larry aren’t going anywhere,” Kennedy said.
Henry, Werner, and Lucchino have been together since they purchased the Red Sox prior to the 2002 season.
Henry and Werner added Liverpool to their portfolio of sports properties in 2010, purchasing the storied soccer team for $476 million. While on WEEI, Henry said the two teams are run on separate budgets based on their individual revenues.
“They’re independently run organizations,” Henry said.
When the Los Angeles Dodgers were sold to Guggenheim Baseball Management for just over $2 billion in May, speculation started almost immediately that other notable franchises would move to gauge their value on the market.
The Red Sox, if available, would likely fetch a similar price. That would be a huge return on the $700 million Henry, Werner, and their limited partners paid for the team.
“Investment bankers do a lot of things,” Henry said. “Maybe one investment banker talked to a potential buyer and decided that if he could get a bid he might be able to create an interest on our part or something. Maybe that’s a possibility, but it certainly hasn’t come from us.
“We’re committed to this franchise for the long term. When we get up in the morning, we don’t think about anything other than, ‘What can we do?’ We’re having meetings here at Fenway about 2013 and beyond.”
The report also suggested that the recent trade of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers could be viewed as precursor to a sale.
The Red Sox realized $264 million in payroll savings on the deal.
Henry mocked that idea, saying the deal was motivated by baseball concerns because the Red Sox have been struggling.
“I guess one response I have is that sometimes journalists have sources that just are completely off-base and don’t know what they’re talking about,” Henry said.
Henry has a controlling interest in the team. Werner and a group of 17 others own varied percentages. Henry said he is aware of no desire to sell from within the group.
“We have quarterly partner meetings, and there’s been no discussion among partners, even in executive sessions, about a sale of any kind,” said Henry. “I don’t think there’s anyone in the partnership who’s interested in selling any of the aspects of Fenway Sports Group.”
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, an entrepreneur at times in his life, was jokingly asked if he might be interested in making Henry an offer.
“I couldn’t get a group together to buy a Little League team,” he said. “I think it’s anything other than newsworthy. But I guess it’s interesting.”