The deal is done, the paperwork filed, and--providing a majority of clubs approve the move--there is a new player in Japanese baseball.
Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings, Inc. signed an agreement selling the Yokohama BayStars professional baseball team to Tokyo-based mobile phone game operator DeNA Co., the two firms announced Nov. 4.
On the same day, DeNA, which runs the popular "Mobage" cellphone game service, officially applied to join Nippon Professional Baseball, the organization governing Japanese professional baseball, under the new team name "Yokohama DeNA Baystars."
The sale and name change will be approved after gaining the consent of 75 percent of the attendees at the professional baseball club owners' meeting on Dec. 1.
DeNA and TBS Holdings held board meetings on Nov. 4 and decided on the transfer of the baseball team through the sale of stock. DeNA will buy 66.92 percent of the team's stock for 6.5 billion yen from TBS. TBS will retain a 2.31 percent ownership stake in the team.
DeNA, a major provider of games played on cellphone handsets, aims to boost name recognition through ownership of the team.
TBS Holdings bought the Central League ballclub from seafood manufacturer Maruha Corp. in 2002 for 14 billion yen. In recent years, the BayStars' annual losses exceeding 2 billion yen have become a major burden on the company. Last fall, TBS Holdings began negotiating the sale of the team to JS Group Corp., Japan's largest retailer of housing fixtures. Those talks, however, eventually broke down.
Now, the last hurdle is whether or not the baseball industry will accept DeNA in the fold.
NPB secretary-general Kunio Shimoda received the necessary paperwork from DeNA and TBS Holdings on the afternoon of Nov. 4.
"I merely received the papers," he told reporters. "This is just the application stage. We will discuss at the Nov. 9 steering committee meeting (attended by representatives from all 12 NPB ballclubs) the steps for future deliberations. It all begins from here. We will also decide on Nov. 9 whether to hold a hearing on this matter."
Under baseball's rules and regulations, new entrants must usually be approved by Nov. 30. Since the next owners' meeting is scheduled for Dec. 1, the participants plan to extend the original deadline until that date.
Within the baseball industry, Pacific League team owner Rakuten--an IT firm and a rival of DeNA--has questioned DeNA's entry to the club. The Chunichi Dragons and Hiroshima Carp have expressed their approval. Senior officials of the Yomiuri Giants, Softbank Hawks and Chiba Lotte Marines have expressed their intention to deliberate the matter thoroughly at the steering committee meeting.
Meanwhile, BayStars President Takao Kaji held a news conference at the team office.
"I feel bad about worrying the team and the players," he said, apologetically.
If the deal goes through, it is now clear that BayStars manager Takao Obana will be fired by the new owners, who are expected to name a younger, more charismatic manager.
The BayStars players have shown a relaxed response to the proceedings so far. Captain Shuichi Murata, who was participating in fall training in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, said: "I'm relieved that a decision has been made. The parent firm will change but we will try hard as a club based in Yokohama. I hope to win the warm support of BayStars fans."
Veteran pitcher Daisuke Miura addressed reporters at the club's head office.
"Players have been practicing with this issue on their minds," he said. "I'm just glad that a decision was finally made."
Both players mentioned that the BayStars, who have posted poor results in recent years, need to become a stronger team on the field to avoid being sold off again.
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