Kevin McClatchy, the Pirates' controlling owner from 1996 to 2007, has cut his ties with the franchise by selling his minority share of ownership.
That share, less than 5 percent, was purchased by the current controlling owner, Bob Nutting, who added to a majority stake that now is more than 60 percent. No financial details were divulged when the Pirates announced the sale yesterday, but the franchise's value was estimated at $292 million by Forbes Magazine in April of last year, and 5 percent of that would be roughly $15 million.
That is close to the same amount Mr. McClatchy paid as his portion of the $90 million price when his consortium bought the Pirates in 1996 -- his share has been estimated at $15 million to $20 million -- but a source yesterday confirmed that Mr. McClatchy quietly has sold other shares in the past year and a half.
Mr. McClatchy was traveling and unavailable for comment yesterday. He issued a statement through the Pirates that did little to explain his reason for selling.
"This was a personal decision that I felt was best to make at this time," he said. "I care deeply about this organization, the city of Pittsburgh and the people of this region. While I will no longer play a role with the club, I will always passionately support the team in any way that I can. I have a great amount of faith in Bob and his new leadership team. They are committed to restoring the organization to its rightful place among the elite franchises in Major League Baseball."
"While this move will mark the end of Kevin's direct involvement with the Pirates after more than 13 years, he will always remain a part of the Pirates family," Mr. Nutting said. "He has made a lasting positive impact on the Pirates and our city."
Mr. McClatchy, who will turn 46 next week, is credited by many inside and outside the organization for playing a key role in arranging the financing -- most of it public -- and construction of PNC Park. The Pirates were losers in all 11 of his seasons as controlling owner, part of the still-going 16-year streak.
Mr. McClatchy also has been a director with The McClatchy Co. founded by his family. The company is the country's second-largest newspaper chain and, like much of that industry, has been hit hard by plummeting revenues and stock declines in recent months. Mr. McClatchy's involvement in the company generally has been minimal, but he is known to have held significant shares.
Mr. Nutting became controlling -- and majority -- owner on Jan. 12, 2007, by buying other minority shares. He kept Mr. McClatchy as chief operating officer, but Mr. McClatchy announced on July 6 of that year that he would relinquish that role by season's end. Frank Coonelly, the current CEO and team president, took over in September.
Mr. McClatchy still has a home in the region and continued to attend games at PNC Park infrequently last season, taking his familiar seat behind home plate. He also paid a visit to the Pirates' contingent at the Winter Meetings last month in Las Vegas. Otherwise, though, he has had little presence and no day-to-day role.
His departure reduces the Pirates' board of directors to five: Mr. Nutting; his father, Ogden, chairman and publisher of the Ogden Newspapers chain; his brother, Bill, vice president of Ogden Newspapers; Duane Witman, Ogden's chief financial officer; and North Carolina businessman Don Beaver.
There is neither an urgency nor a need to replace Mr. McClatchy on the board, a source said.