Who owns the Phillies?

One of Philadelphia’s best kept secrets is the ghost group of people we loosely call the owners of the Phillies. The Phillies ownership group is still more of a mystery in this town than Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle.

While winning the World Series in 2008 took a lot of pressure off the Phillies’ owners, fans renewed their hatred for the faceless, nameless people we never see or hear about when the club traded Cliff Lee for the likely reason of saving $ 9 million dollars. The time has come for us to investigate these Phillies ghosts, who are quite adept at staying invisible. David Montgomery is here to speak on behalf of the owners who allowed so many years of horrible baseball before getting lucky in 2008, and to make sure the fans never, ever find out who they really are.

David Montgomery said recently that the Phillies’ owners are in the red and have been since they took over the team. HA! I guess we should all bow down and thank these wonderful people for selflessly throwing away their hard earned money for our enjoyment. Good. Montgomery wasn’t lying, but he sure was twisting the truth as well as any politician. I bet they’ve been losing money… on their operating costs. But team value is a whole different story. Let’s put it this way: The original group bought the team in 1981 for $30 million. The 2008 Phillies were reportedly worth $481 million (and that’s before they won the World Series). That’s over a 1,600 percent increase in equipment value… 1,600 percent! Trust me, THEY ARE NOT LOSING MONEY.

Before we reveal these Phillies Phantoms, let’s break down exactly how they came to be the owners. In 1981, when Ruly Carpenter announced that he was selling the team, Bill Giles assembled a group of investors to buy the Phillies. With only $50,000 to spend, he needed a little help. He took a 10 percent stake in the team, oversaw daily operations, and became the group’s spokesperson, allowing the others to hide in the shadows.

The Buck brothers invested $5 million. Widener family heir Fitz Dixon and horse racing magnate Bob Levy combined for $3.5 million. John D. Betz of Betz Laboratories pledged $5 million. Taft Broadcasting did the rest, putting up $15 million.

In 1986, Taft Broadcasting sold its 47 percent interest to Bill Giles and his team for $24.1 million. Bob Levy and Fitz Dixon have also cashed in since then. Bill Giles turned over his general partner position to David Montgomery in 1997, who also took a part in the company.

That leaves Claire Betz, the Buck Brothers, and John Middleton as the remaining anonymous sources. Let’s see what we can dig up, shall we? Let’s meet the cast:

Claire S. Betz

Claire S. Betz is approaching 90 years old and shares time between her homes in Gwynedd, PA and Key Largo, Florida. Claire’s husband, John Drew Betz, bought her out of the Phillies in 1981 and she took over the property in the middle of a nice little soap opera. Look, her son, Peter Betz, was murdered by her 16-year-old grandson, Justin Betz, in 1988. Justin pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and John died of cancer at the age of 72 during his trial. . That’s when she took over the part for her. Bill Conlin of the Inquirer put her share of the team at 33 percent in a November 2007 article.

The Betz’s made their fortune through a family owned water purification company called Betz Laboratories, of which John Betz was the president. Later, Betz Laboratories was sold to General Electric. She and David Montgomery are also on the board of the Schuylkill Center, a local conservation group. When Claire passes away, it is likely that the other partners will buy her shares.

the buck brothers

The Buck brothers: Alexander K. Buck, J. Mahlon Buck, Jr., and William C. Buck. Officially known as Tri-Play Associates, the three brothers are involved with TDH Capital Corp., a Radnor, Pennsylvania-based venture capital firm. The company was started in 1977 and invests primarily in small businesses.

They have also been heavily involved in local charity, including gifts to the zoo, orchestra, and education. “The Bucks are very principled. Very, very gentlemanly. Very, very reserved,” says JB Doherty, a general partner at TDH Capital.

john middleton

John S. Middleton is in his fifties and divides his time between Bryn Mawr and Stone Harbor. He is a 1977 Amherst College graduate and, according to them, “Middleton runs his family business, which includes McIntosh Inns, Bradford Holdings and Double Play, Inc.” He inherited his share of the estate from his father, Herbert H. Middleton. He is also a member of the Penn Medicine Board of Trustees.

John was the most passionate of the group. Middleton is rumored to be one of the main reasons the Phillies signed Jim Thome in 2002. He is credited with declaring, “I’ll pay for him myself!”

In November 2007 it was announced that Middleton had sold his family’s cigarette company to the Altria Group, owners of Phillip Morris, for $2.9 billion. The fans had a brief moment of hope that maybe, just maybe, we could have a property committed to winning. David Montgomery shut down those dreams instantly. In a statement, Montgomery said: “John Middleton is a limited partner of the Phillies and his personal and business interests have no impact on the operation of the baseball club.” That’s a pretty strong statement from the very mild-mannered Montgomery. As he will soon learn, that’s exactly what it means to be a limited, limited partner. But, if John Middleton could somehow get a majority stake, he could have called the shots and told Montgomery to hit the road if he wanted.

It’s hard to say if Middleton even tried to buy the team, but the program during a 2004 ceremony in Amherst said: “Montgomery runs the show. He just reaffirmed that fact. Partners are supposed to stay out of the way, and these partners are pretty John S. Middleton has been known to be an outlier on some issues, and freeing up the money to sign Jim Thome was thought to be one of them.”

david montgomery

Bill Giles hired David Montgomery in 1971 to work in the Phillies’ ticket office, later becoming Director of Sales. When the current group bought the team, Giles named Montgomery his top assistant in 1982. Possibly his most telling quote was: “I just think the organization needs an image that’s not directly related to wins and losses.” “.

bill giles

Giles started with the Phillies as vice president of business operations in 1969. He was team vice president until 1982, team president from 1982 to 1987, and general manager from 1984 to 1987. Giles decided to step down as general partner in 1997 and took the title of partner director. He is the son of former National League president Warren Giles and current honorary president of the National League.

limited companions

Before going any further, it’s helpful to know what it means to be a limited partner. Bill Conlin describes it in more detail in his limited partnership article, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version. Basically, the general partner (was Giles, now Montgomery) assembles the group, negotiates the sale of the team, is responsible for all debts and lawsuits, and receives a little extra coin in the form of salary.

So what does it mean to be a limited partner? It means that they are limited to their cash investment and nothing else. Don’t like what’s happening? Do you want to get rid of David Montgomery? Too much. When they agreed to the terms as limited partners, they gave all power to the general partner.

As Conlin said regarding Montgomery: “Unless you can prove misconduct and worse, it would be hard to evict you.” He says they probably also signed an agreement not to publicly criticize the Phillies’ leadership. Much like the Marge Schott situation many years ago, if David Montgomery doesn’t want to leave, he won’t. Simple as that.


We should have no reason to hate any of the people who run the team. We don’t know them, and they haven’t done anything illegal or unethical that we know of. In fact, they seem to be highly principled and classy people.


Buying a professional sports team is not just another investment where you can let your stockbroker do all the work and call you from time to time with an update. Especially when he asks the city and state for $260 million to help build his new ballpark, he has given up the right to be “fiercely private,” as Amherst described Middleton.

We have a rare opportunity for greatness with the current team. We need to seize the moment while we can, and our ownership group has shown us time and time again that they won’t do anything to help. We already missed the boat once by forcing Cliff Lee out. Let’s stop it right there and get them out of here.

Imagine for a second how different things would be if someone like Pat Croce, Ed Rendell, or heck, even Comcast-Spectacor was running the team…

Don’t hold your breath. We won’t get a new owner. Many have tried and none have succeeded. The Bucks, the Betz’s, and the Middletons will continue to pass their shares on to each other until such time as we are all ghosts, like them.

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