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A’s owner John Fisher breaks silence, says he won’t sell team: Las Vegas interview

A’s owner John Fisher breaks silence, says he won’t sell team: Las Vegas interview

John Fisher has yet to do an interview with a Bay Area outlet since taking over as Oakland A’s owner in 2016, or even since becoming part-owner in 2005.

But the infamously reclusive Fisher recently spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a question-and-answer session published on Wednesday morning and revealed several key details regarding the A’s planned move to Las Vegas.

And the most important takeaway: much to the chagrin of the A’s fans who have voicedSell the team” protest chants at nearly every game since the all-star break, Fisher says he has “not considered selling the team.”

“I’ve now owned the team with my partner Lew Wolff, it’s shocking really how the time flies, but since 2005,” Fisher said. “Our goal since then has been to find a new home and build a new home for our team.”

Fisher said the A’s recently submitted their relocation application to Major League Baseball and its three-man relocation committee and expressed hope that it will be done soon, though he admitted he isn’t in control of the timeline. The A’s are working against a firm deadline in baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, which says the team must have a finalized ballpark plan in place by Jan. 15, 2024 in order to continue to receive money from MLB’s revenue sharing pool.

Fisher claims the A’s “have had the revenues to support” many key things needed for a Major League team, claiming the team will “lose $40 million with a $60 million payroll” in 2023. It is worth noting that Fisher and the A’s have not opened up their books publicly and Forbes reported the A’s profited $29 million in 2022, in spite of being in the bottom two in both attendance and payroll last year.

That Fisher is speaking at all is noteworthy itself, if only because of his longstanding policy to remain silent. He said that has been intentional.

“The reason that I haven’t been as outwardly involved in media to date is that I really wanted the people running the team, Dave Kaval on the business side and Billy Beane and David Forst and others on the baseball side, to be the voice of the team,” Fisher said. “They’re the ones that do most of the work here and create the teams and the product that’s out on the field and that we use for creating a great experience for our fans. It was important to me that they be front and center with the A’s, as opposed to having it be me.”

The reason for the change, Fisher said, is because of the pending relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas.

“I feel that it’s important that the people hear from me, because at the end of the day that decision is mine,” Fisher said. “That decision needs to be supported by the owners themselves, but in the middle of an application for relocation is a decision that I chose to make. So I think it’s really important that people hear from me about why that decision was made and what it means.”

The A’s have repeatedly denied this news organization’s requests to interview Fisher, including as recently as June. Fisher has not done any interviews with a Bay Area media outlet about his A’s ownership or the team since he and Wolff took over in 2005.

In that time, the A’s have consistently had a bottom-half payroll among MLB’s 30 teams and haven’t ranked higher than 23rd in the past 16 seasons (according to Baseball Prospectus’ Cot’s Contracts). But Fisher now says the new ballpark’s increased revenues will allow him to increase how much money he can spend on players.

“We expect that our revenues will be considerably higher in our new ballpark than they have been to date,” Fisher said. “And that will enable us to have a higher payroll and keep our young talent around, as opposed to sadly seeing them go to other teams, and it will allow us to be out there signing free agents.”

Fisher’s other team, the San Jose Earthquakes, has not seen a dramatic increase in their player payroll rankings in Major League Soccer since PayPal Park was built in 2015. In the nine seasons since then, the Quakes have remained in the bottom half of MLS payrolls, including ranking 21st out of 29 teams in 2023.

But while player payroll is an important financial indicator, Fisher’s ability to come up with more money in order to get the stadium built. Nevada’s Senate Bill 1 grants the A’s up to $380 million in public dollars from various Nevada entities, but that still leaves more than $1.1 billion left to get — and that is if the project doesn’t have cost overruns. When asked if he is confident they can get the funding, Fisher responded affirmatively.

“We have a very good financial plan in place,” Fisher said. “We’ve been working closely with Goldman Sachs, and my family as well, as indicated, is planning to invest a substantial amount.”

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Fisher was addressed to address several other topics in the question-and-answer story from the Review-Journal. A hot topic in Las Vegas has been whether the A’s would actually want to have a crowd of locals or play to visiting team’s fans, like the Raiders have seen in Allegiant Stadium.

“Home crowds are great … Having said that, hey, we play 81 games with an expectation that we’re going to draw between 2 and 2-and-a-half million fans, and we want to be an environment that is conducive to local fans wanting to come out and support the team, having a great experience, but it’s also conducive to visitors coming in,” Fisher said. “We think that we can accomplish both successfully.”

Another topic was Raiders owner Mark Davis’ fiery remarks from April, when Davis blamed the A’s for the Raiders having to look elsewhere. Fisher acknowledged the A’s “didn’t make it the easiest” on Davis and the Raiders.

“That’s on me, that was my responsibility,” Fisher said. “I told that to Mark, and I called him when we were coming to Las Vegas, to get to know the community. I reached out to him because I wanted to let him know that we were going to be there and that I wanted to sit down with him when he was available so that we could talk about our respective experiences and so that we could learn something from him. They were in Oakland, they came to Vegas, they have been really successful and we wanted to learn from that experience.”

Fisher’s final answer in the Q&A is perhaps the most ironic of them all. Asked what the most important thing he’s learned in business, Fisher said you need two things: great people and great product.

The A’s have MLB’s worst record in 2023, currently sitting at 36-90 entering Wednesday.