MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation ("Foundation") today announced that it has reached a strategic agreement that would rescue the financially troubled Memphis Redbirds and AutoZone Park. The Foundation has been operating the Redbirds and AutoZone Park under a forbearance agreement since it defaulted on its required bond payment in 2010. The agreement calls for the St. Louis Cardinals ("Cardinals") to acquire the Memphis Redbirds and the City of Memphis to acquire AutoZone Park. The City would then lease the ballpark to the Redbirds through a long-term lease agreement. The agreement includes a significant capital investment in AutoZone Park to add features that will significantly improve the overall fan experience.
The plan has the full support of the Foundation's sole bondholder, Fundamental Advisors LP ("Fundamental"), who will retire the original bonds issued by the Memphis Center City Revenue Finance Corporation as part of the transaction. Fundamental has agreed to take a significant discount on the original principal amount of the bonds as part of this transaction. Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. and members of his administration have conducted extensive due diligence and will recommend the Memphis City Council approve the transaction during its December 3rd meeting. The agreement calls for the parties to close the transaction by December 31, 2013.
"We are thrilled that we are in a position to return the stadium back to the people of Memphis," said John Pontius, treasurer for the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation. "Our team will benefit from best-in-class leadership of the Cardinals. We want to thank everyone involved, and look forward to a bright future ahead as a part of this world-class organization."
"The Redbirds represent the best of minor league baseball," added William DeWitt Jr., Chairman and CEO of the St. Louis Cardinals. "This opens the door to countless new opportunities for our combined organization, and we are thrilled about the prospects for baseball fans in both of our great cities."
"Returning ownership of AutoZone Park to its fans is a major victory for our city," said Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. "This agreement will retire all of the outstanding bonds and will stabilize the long-term future of the Redbirds and AutoZone Park. Also, we will be investing in our future and partnering with the best organization in MLB. We have done our homework and believe that it is in the best long-term interests of the City and its residents to move forward with this transaction. On December 3rd, I will encourage City Council to approve this agreement, which I believe will bring renewed excitement and energy to Memphis and our beloved Redbirds."
"We are proud of what we have achieved by working with the City, the Foundation and other interested parties during the turnaround phase of this project," said Laurence Gottlieb, Chairman and CEO of Fundamental Advisors. "By every observable metric, the team and stadium are in a far better place today than when we acquired the bonds. The time is right to turn the stadium back over to the great city of Memphis, and to leave the team in the hands of the world-class St. Louis Cardinals organization. We will be cheering from the sidelines."