The Courier Post reports that the Camden Riversharks could be sold before the start of the season. This could be good news for the league, bringing in local ownership and possibly leaving Opening Day Partners and league founder and CEO Frank Boulton to concentrate on other endeavors.
ODP currently owns three teams — York, Lancaster and Southern Maryland — and it operates the Riversharks. It expects to field its fourth franchise next year in Sugar Land, Texas. Boulton built the Long Island Ducks and recently sold his controlling interest in the team. The majority owner of the Bridgeport Bluefish, Boulton is also in talks to bring another team to Long Island.
Many fans and casual observers of the Atlantic League often laugh about the ownership structure of the league when they talk to me. The league has the perception of eight teams being run by about three men. When ODP owns four teams, it looks unusual and it has stirred questions about the league’s competitive balance. Not to go all Dr. Phil on everyone, but perception has become reality for many people who follow the league. Every year fans at Sovereign Bank Stadium comment how they believe ODP has pushed all their best resources and money into the Lancaster Barnstormers — ODP’s biggest draw. After all, the reasoning goes, why wouldn’t a company market and push it’s biggest draw? But the Barnstormers have not recorded a winning half since their championship run in 2006.
ODP and Boulton have not been quoted as saying they want to sell the majority share in the Sharks, but it appears they have an opportunity to remove themselves from the Camden situation.
The ownership of Camden has been an unusual partnership since 2004.
Three Atlantic League owners, Boulton (Bridgeport Bluefish and at the time Long Island Ducks), Steve Kalafer (Somerset Patriots) and Peter Kirk (ODP), took control of the franchise before the 2004 season. From what I understand about the situation, Boulton owns a slim but majority share of the team, and Kalafer is no longer part of the ownership group.
ODP operates the franchise, while Boulton and ODP fund the franchise.
Under its current ownership, the Sharks have reached the playoffs three times (2008, 2007 and 2004) and they have lost in the championship series in 2004 and 2008. They haven’t appeared in the postseason since their 2008 loss to Somerset in the championship.
An ownership group interested in buying the Sharks became public knowledge last year. It appeared Boulton and ODP would wait — allowing the new owners to learn the business before taking over the team later this year — but the Courier Post report stated that two groups had interest in buying the club.
The latest report by the Courier News is the first I’ve heard of the team being sold before opening night on April 29.