Friday, November 5, 2004

Bidder pursues 'Freedom'

By Cliff Peale
Enquirer staff writer

FLORENCE - The man who would be owner of the Florence Freedom minor-league baseball team would love to go out and pitch a few innings. But don't expect him to try it.

Instead, Clint Brown says he would be a hands-on owner, trying to resuscitate the Freedom from bankruptcy and make the team one of the region's biggest attractions.

"I have no intention of being the field manager or getting into the nitty gritty of something like the general manager," he said. "Absolutely not. Wouldn't know where to begin. George Steinbrenner, I am not."

Brown bid $3 million to buy the assets of Freedom owner Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball LLC out of bankruptcy. There will be an auction, and another bidder could raise the stakes.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge William S. Howard approved a motion Thursday to go ahead with the bidding process. The court expects to approve the sale of the team's assets Dec. 14. An auction is to be held a few days earlier.

Approval of the process was critical for the team to be included in the Frontier League's 2005 schedule, a league attorney told Howard.

About $1.3 million of Brown's offer would pay debts to local contractors.

The city of Florence would add another $600,000, but contractors would receive about half what they're owed.

Brown, who sold Alliance Research in Crestview Hills five years ago and has been looking for another business opportunity for a couple of years, is confident he can resuscitate the franchise.

For example, he'll be at minor league owners' meetings this weekend in Atlantic City, N.J., selling the Freedom's prospects.

Brown doesn't care to know the full story of Chuck Hildebrant, who ran the Freedom last year and faces a federal investigation of bank loans he obtained to finance ballpark construction. "I have no intention of repeating the mistakes of the past," Brown said. "We're going to make as big a splash as we can."


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