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Moorad to Run Show in Arizona

Top agent will get out of that business and replace Colangelo with the struggling Diamondbacks.

August 07, 2004|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

Jeff Moorad, the prominent Newport Beach agent whose client list includes some of the brightest stars in baseball, quit his practice Friday to join the Arizona Diamondbacks as chief executive officer.

With the Diamondbacks saddled with the worst record in the major leagues and poor financial performance, a new group of controlling investors ousted founding partner Jerry Colangelo and replaced him with Moorad, an unconventional selection to run a franchise in the most traditional of sports.

Moorad's clients include Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox, Luis Gonzalez of the Diamondbacks, Darin Erstad of the Angels and Shawn Green of the Dodgers. He represented baseball and football players in two decades as an agent, and the eight-year, $160-million contract he negotiated with the Red Sox on behalf of Ramirez ranks as the second-largest in major league history

"He's accomplished everything he wanted as an agent," Green said. "He's moving onto the next phase of his life."

Moorad did not return calls from The Times. In a statement issued by the Diamondbacks, Moorad said, "I am honored to have the opportunity to help this organization live up to its rich young tradition."

There is little precedent for an agent switching sides and joining management. In 2001, after Wayne Gretzky bought the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, he hired his agent, Mike Barnett, as general manager

Dennis Gilbert, who represented such stars as Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Bret Saberhagen, left his Beverly Hills Sports Council two years before joining the Chicago White Sox in 2000, as special assistant to Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

"I think it's a natural," Gilbert said Friday. "Agents have a lot of personal contact with players. They understand the economics of the game on both sides."

But one agent, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Moorad could face a conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of one.

"He might have to say, we as an organization don't think it's a good idea to sign Luis Gonzalez, when he's been an advocate of teams signing Luis Gonzalez his whole career," the agent said. "It's a bit hypocritical."

Colangelo, believing Arizona fans would not grant an expansion team a lengthy honeymoon, spent heavily on such stars as Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Matt Williams. In 1999, their second season, the Diamondbacks won 100 games and a division title. In 2001, they beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

But even with a large investment in deferred salaries, Colangelo tapped his partners for another $53 million in 1998 and 1999 to satisfy mounting debts, the Arizona Republic reported.

At one point, a minority shareholder and Phoenix businessman named Arte Moreno urged the partners to boot Colangelo and let him run the team. Moreno sold his share and, last year, bought the Angels for $183.5 million, in cash.

In March, four partners bought out Colangelo, leaving him to run the team at their pleasure. On Friday, Colangelo agreed to depart but made clear the choice was not his.

"They asked me to step down," he told reporters in Phoenix. "I'm a big boy. When I got over the initial pain of it, it seemed to make sense."

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