Savits take over GreenJackets

savit_take_over_greenjackets

01 Jul Savits take over GreenJackets

After 15 years with renowned sports marketing firm International Management Group, Mike Savit was ready to get out on his own.

Maybe run his own golf tournament. Perhaps a pro tennis event.

And then it hit him.

“Baseball has always been my No. 1 sport, but I never really considered owning a team a possibility for me,” said Savit, who officially took ownership of the Augusta GreenJackets on Friday with his brother, Jeffrey.

“One day I just realized that it was a lot more feasible than I thought.”

The 42-year-old Boston native and his brother, a 38-year-old probate lawyer in nearby Sharon, Mass., joined forces and set out to purchase a minor-league baseball franchise. After touring several towns with baseball teams on the market, the Savits decided Augusta had everything they were looking for.

Last winter through Phoenix-based baseball franchise broker Bob Richmond, the Savits struck a deal with California businessman Bill Scripps, who owned the team for eight years.

Savit would not disclose the purchase price, but a source close to the team said it was approximately $2.5 million. Scripps, an heir to the Scripps-Howard newspaper fortune, purchased the team in 1990 from Bill Heaton and Len Monheimer for $1.4 million.

“Augusta is a great town, I just love coming down here,” Savit said. “And I am very happy with the direction the ballclub is headed financially and with the job (general manager) Chris Scheuer and his staff are doing. This is a first-class operation with tremendous local management.”

With an extensive background in marketing and public relations as a promoter of golf and tennis tournaments for IMG, Savit was asked to speak at a marketing seminar at the 1996 Minor League Baseball winter meetings in Boston.

That was when he realized owning a team was possible.

“I always had baseball in the back of my head and when I went to speak at the winter meetings, all of sudden a little bulb just went off,” Savit said. “So I got a whole bunch of names and asked people how to get involved, and they put me in contact with Bob Richmond. A few months later, we heard about Augusta and Bill Scripps. And here we are.”

Savit, who will continue to live in Boston, plans to make frequent trips to Augusta. For the remainder of the season, Savit says he will be a “silent observer, just soaking it all in, getting a feel for how the franchise operates.”

After that, he plans to put his background to work.

“I think there is room for more aggressive marketing and aggressive sales,” Savit said. “The curve is going in the right direction, but I think it can go in an even better direction. I know we can definitely put more bodies in the seats.”

Since Lake Olmstead Stadium opened in 1995, the GreenJackets are averaging 161,000 fans a year, the fourth-highest average in the South Atlantic League from 1995-97. After drawing 171,000 in ’95, the team drew 162,000 in 1996 and 152,000 last season. This season, the Jackets are on pace for 168,000 fans.

“For the first time, the team made a profit the last two years, and is on pace this year to make more money than it’s ever made,” Savit said. “And that’s a good thing because this is not a hobby. We want to make money. We need to make money. We have to make money.”

Source: The Augusta Chronicle