Beetles baseball: Reilly to sell Beetles organizationReilly hopes to find a buyer that would keep the team local.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria Beetles owner Shawn Reilly admits he made an emotional decision to buy the Northwoods League franchise three years ago based on potential and his desire to see the Beetles stay in Alexandria long term.
That desire hasn’t changed, but in order to ensure that, it will have to be done under new ownership. Reilly and his wife Christine have decided to sell the team after not being able to get back what they put into the organization financially when they bought it from Alexandria’s Jim and Jill Wagner.
“I have not been able to get it to the point where it at least breaks even,” Reilly said from his IBR Realty office on Tuesday morning. “And that’s probably two years away. We’ve been growing. But we’re at the point where we just can’t do it.”
It was a decision that Reilly said he wrestled with because of how much he has enjoyed owning the NWL team. He served as the Beetles’ general manager for three years prior to taking over ownership. When it came time for the Wagners to sell, he already felt invested in the team.
He knew at the time that without a local buyer, there were no guarantees the Beetles would stay in Alexandria. That’s the same dilemma facing the organization today, a byproduct of operating in the smallest market in the entire league.
That’s why he says he is willing to lose money if it means he is able to sell to a local buyer who can keep the team in Alexandria. Reilly purchased the
Beetles for $375,000. He currently has it listed on the market for $125,000.
Reilly said the league has the right to come in and take over ownership if he isn’t able to pay off all his vendors by the end of October. From there, anything can happen. The NWL could come in and clean up some of the debt and run the organization, search for a new owner or move the franchise to a different location in the future. Reilly said he doesn’t see a move happening for the 2013 season no matter what happens on November 1, but there are no guarantees after that.
“It’s pretty much the whole deal,” Reilly said when asked how much of his asking price has to do with wanting to guarantee the team stays in town. “Otherwise I would just give it back to the league. I’m not saying that’s a horrible thing. I just don’t trust it would stay here to be honest with you. That’s why we’re basically willing to lose our equity in it. We don’t want it to leave here.”
Reilly says owning the team can be profitable with a new owner if they don’t have to borrow any money for the purchase. He wasn’t in that position when he bought the team, and the loans they have had to pay back are what have kept them from ever breaking even.
Reilly said the gross revenue for the team has grown 5-10 percent in the last three years. He believes that growth will continue to the point where new ownership can make a profit if they come into it debt free.
“It would be profitable immediately,” he said. “When we purchased it, we had debt. We had loans that we took out, and if you got rid of those loans, we would have at least broke even this year…the potential is still there. We just can’t get there quick enough. But based on the numbers from this year, they can turn a profit.”
Reilly knew it was a risky financial decision when he bought the team and said he purchased the Beetles more with his heart than on what made sense financially. That’s why he called his ownership of the Beetles the most rewarding and disappointing business decision he has ever made.
Reilly loved running his own team. His family was at every home game. His 8-year-old son Colin grew up around the Beetles at Knute Nelson Ball Park. He said his family made it a priority to use the Beetles as a platform to help out in the community. In that sense, he has no regrets about his purchase and his three years as an owner.
“I can’t say that I would ever regret meeting the people I have,” he said. “Learning the things I’ve learned, being involved in an organization, the Northwoods League as well as the Beetles, that is like very few jobs on the planet. It’s been a joy to be the GM and to run and own a team…in hindsight, would I have done it? I think I would have. That’s the crazy thing. I lost a lot of money in the deal, but I don’t regret it because we’ve enjoyed it so much.”