The Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation ("Foundation") today announced that it has reached a strategic agreement that would rescue the financially troubled Memphis Redbirds and AutoZone Park. The Foundation has been operating the Redbirds and AutoZone Park under a forbearance agreement since it defaulted on its required bond payment in 2010. The agreement calls for the St. Louis Cardinals ("Cardinals") to acquire the Memphis Redbirds and the City of Memphis to acquire AutoZone Park. The City would then lease the ballpark to the Redbirds through a long-term lease agreement. The agreement includes a significant capital investment in AutoZone Park to add features that will significantly improve the overall fan experience.
The plan has the full support of the Foundation's sole bondholder, Fundamental Advisors LP ("Fundamental"), who will retire the original bonds issued by the Memphis Center City Revenue Finance Corporation as part of the transaction. Fundamental has agreed to take a significant discount on the original principal amount of the bonds as part of this transaction. Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. and members of his administration have conducted extensive due diligence and will recommend the Memphis City Council approve the transaction during its December 3rd meeting. The agreement calls for the parties to close the transaction by December 31, 2013.
"We are thrilled that we are in a position to return the stadium back to the people of Memphis," said John Pontius, treasurer for the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation. "Our team will benefit from best-in-class leadership of the Cardinals. We want to thank everyone involved, and look forward to a bright future ahead as a part of this world-class organization."
"The Redbirds represent the best of minor league baseball," added William DeWitt Jr., Chairman and CEO of the St. Louis Cardinals. "This opens the door to countless new opportunities for our combined organization, and we are thrilled about the prospects for baseball fans in both of our great cities."
"Returning ownership of AutoZone Park to its fans is a major victory for our city," said Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. "This agreement will retire all of the outstanding bonds and will stabilize the long-term future of the Redbirds and AutoZone Park. Also, we will be investing in our future and partnering with the best organization in MLB. We have done our homework and believe that it is in the best long-term interests of the City and its residents to move forward with this transaction. On December 3rd, I will encourage City Council to approve this agreement, which I believe will bring renewed excitement and energy to Memphis and our beloved Redbirds."
"We are proud of what we have achieved by working with the City, the Foundation and other interested parties during the turnaround phase of this project," said Laurence Gottlieb, Chairman and CEO of Fundamental Advisors. "By every observable metric, the team and stadium are in a far better place today than when we acquired the bonds. The time is right to turn the stadium back over to the great city of Memphis, and to leave the team in the hands of the world-class St. Louis Cardinals organization. We will be cheering from the sidelines."
About The Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation
The Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation is the first and only not-for-profit charitable organization in the United States to own and operate a professional baseball franchise, the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. AutoZone Park - the finest ballpark ever built in the United States below the Major League level - is the home of the Redbirds and has served as the cornerstone of development in downtown Memphis. Incorporating the Memphis Redbirds as not-for-profit entity allows the community to own the team and facility. For the first time in history, Mid-South residents, corporate leaders and baseball fans are able to give back to the community - and at the same time enjoy first class entertainment - by supporting Memphis Redbirds Baseball.
About the St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals (www.cardinals.com) are one of the most storied franchises in all of baseball. Since they joined the National League in 1892, the Cardinals have won more than 9,500 games, 11 World Series Championships and 19 N.L. Pennants, 3 N.L. Eastern Division Titles, 8 N.L. Central Division Titles and 2 N.L. Wild Card Titles. Over 40 former Cardinals players and managers are enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
About Fundamental Advisors
Fundamental Advisors is a leading alternative asset manager dedicated to the municipal markets. Founded in 2007 as a private equity firm focused on revitalizing distressed assets, Fundamental now offers a range of investment vehicles that capitalize on the growing opportunity set in the municipal market.