Phillies Middleton: Steinbrenner South?


In bits and pieces, CSN Philly is rolling out an exclusive interview conducted by insider Jim Salisbury with departing franchise icon Jimmy Rollins. In one of the segments, JRoll refers to a member of the Phillies ownership group, John S. Middleton, as wanting to become “Steinbrenner South” in building a consistent winner.

For most Phillies fans, ownership of the team is nebulous at best. So a bit of a primer is in order to let you know who owns the team, who is in control, and who exactly is John S. Middleton.

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In 1981, a group of investors was put together by Bill Giles to purchase the Phillies from Ruly Carpenter, whose family had owned the team for more than a half-century.

This limited partnership, in which no one owned a majority of the club, included Giles, Middleton, current ailing club president David Montgomery, and members of the Buck and Betz families.

Events in recent years and months have sent this ownership group reeling. Giles is aging (80) and has already taken a back seat. Montgomery battled cancer this year, and at age 68 may be ready to slow down his close involvement. Clair Betz passed away in February at age 93, predeceased by husband John. Finally, 2 of the 3 Buck brothers involved have also passed, with remaining brother from their “Tri-Play Associates” share of the ownership group, William, now 83 years old.

For the time being, former GM Pat Gillick has been named as the interim president as Montgomery recovers, and he controls the operation of the club on all matters. There is a feeling that Montgomery will be replaced permanently in 2015, or at least will have a lesser role.

“…if he had it his way he’d be majority owner and be doing a lot of different things with the team I think” ~ Jimmy Rollins, on John S. Middleton

In the interview with Salisbury, Rollins has been quoted as referring to Middleton, who is in his upper-50’s and the youngest person in the ownership group, as having ambitions “to be Steinbrenner South“, referring to the late New York Yankees take-charge owner George Steinbrenner.

You can feel it when you meet the guy, he wants to put a winner out there…I know he would like to have more influence…if he had it his way he’d be majority owner and be doing a lot of different things with the team I think.”

Rollins clearly thinks this would be a good thing, hoping that Middleton gets the chance, believing that the man who sold his father’s cigar business for an estimated $2.9 billion in 2007, has been called “the richest man in Pennsylvania” by CNN, and has managed to accumulate a 48% interest in team ownership would drive the team forward into a consistently winning era.