A group of home builders and fixtures tried to buy the Yokohama BayStars at the end of the 2010 season. It was the Giants' head chairman, Watanabe Tsuneo, who alerted the press about the back room dealings going on. That led to an outcry from BayStars fans, and the deal was eventually aborted due to TBS' (Tokyo Broadcasting System) insistence that staying in Yokohama be a condition of the sale.
Once again, September comes around and it's the Giants' head chairman, Watanabe Tsuneo, alerting the press that there are several suitors looking to buy the Yokohama BayStars. But according to quotes in a SanSpo.com article
, it's very clear that Nabetsune (as Watanabe-kaicho
is "affectionately" called) isn't trying to break up the deal this year. This is the meat of what he says:
"TBS is bad, but it's a loss leader that they have. The conditions for using Yokohama Stadium are the worst. Nippon Ham has succeeded. SoftBank and Rakuten also. Yokohama would be better off moving elsewhere."
While it doesn't appear that Watanabe-kaicho
is aware of the bad deal that SoftBank got when it bought the Hawks without Fukuoka Dome included, he does have a point. The team gets very little revenue from playing at Yokohama Stadium, reportedly paying more to use the facilities than they bring in, even when they do have a sell out crowd.
Of course, Nabetsune also has his own stipulations as to what kind of new owner will be accepted into the NPB fold. "変な企業" ("strange enterprises") will not be accepted (I don't think he approves of Internet companies), nor will a company controlled by foreigners. Only industries that make excellent products (that he can understand) will be allowed in. Two potential suitors are HIS (a travel agency) and DeNA (pronounced "D.N.A." - makers of games for phones) have been identified so far. Nojima Denki (an electronics retailer headquartered in Yokohama) has been mentioned a number of times in the past as a potential buyer, but not in this more recent round.
Okay, that was the news part. Now for some commentary.
clearly wants competition in the Kanto area reduced. He was trying to reduce the number of teams in 2004, reportedly (speculatively?) looking to eliminate Lotte, Seibu, Yakult, and/or Yokohama, merging any two together. Hey, they're all Kanto area teams! Now, why would he want to do that? He's not worried about losing the Giants' fan base is he? Or does he think that it would expand their fan base? No, that wouldn't be very likely, as fans of the other four Kanto team tend to be so as anti-Giants fans. That won't change.
The other major point that he makes is avoiding foreign controlled interests. It was rumored that a foreign group, and close personal friends of Bobby Valentine, expressed interest in the BayStars back in 2008 with the goal of bringing Bobby across Tokyo Bay. Valentine-kantoku
supposedly turned down the alleged offer as he couldn't imagine leaving Chiba. (This was clearly before Lotte's front office turned on him.) Watanabe-kaicho
would (and probably should) greatly fear a Central League team in the Kanto area led by the charismatic Bobby Valentine. The Giants would have a very hard time competing for headline space against such a team. So it seems that he's making it clear from the start that such an action will not be tolerated in the halls of NPB (not matter how much such a move could energize the sport).
So, will TBS be able to dump the team off on somebody else this time around? I don't know. And I certainly hope that if they do that the new owners have a personal interest in keeping the team in Yokohama. As the drama unfolds in the coming couple of months, now that the cat is out of the bag, those will be my main two concerns. I didn't feel that TBS' went into the purchase with all their heart when they bought the team from Maruha (a fish canery company). I hope that they pass it on to someone who will go in with all their heart.