Ken Young wasn’t looking to sell, but he finally got an offer he couldn’t turn down.
As a result, the Norfolk Tides, the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate, will change hands for the first time in 30 years.
Young, the team’s president and chief owner since 1993, has agreed to sell the club to Diamond Baseball Holdings, which owns more than 20 minor league baseball teams, the Tides and DBH announced Tuesday.
Young, a longtime food service executive, said the ownership change puts the team in no danger of leaving, adding that the club’s staff will stay put.
“They don’t want to go anyplace,” Young said, referring to DBH. “They know Norfolk’s a good market. The Tides will stay in Norfolk.”
Subject to obtaining the consent of the International League and satisfying other standard closing conditions, the transaction is expected to be completed promptly.
Norfolk is operating under a player development contract with the parent club that runs through 2030. The Tides recently signed a two-year extension to their Harbor Park lease with the city that runs through the 2024 season and is expected to be extended long-term in the coming months.
Young, who declined to disclose terms of the sale, will remain with the club as an advisor and continue to help negotiate the lease extension with the city.
DBH is under the umbrella of Silver Lake, a $101 billion private equity investment firm. Founded in 2021 by media conglomerate Endeavor, DBH owns teams from the low Class A level to Triple-A, including Gwinnett, Memphis, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and St. Paul of the IL.
Tides general manager Joe Gregory said a representative from DBH was in town Tuesday to answer questions from the staff.
“It would’ve been easy to just have a Zoom call and put the staff on,” Gregory said. “But for them to actually fly somebody in here and sit down face to face and talk to everybody, I think, shows their effort and their genuine care that they have for the best interests of the existing staff.”
Young said DBH contacted him about purchasing the team about 18 months ago, when the company began buying several minor league clubs.
“I really wasn’t interested,” Young said. “And they kept coming back and finally got to a point [where] I thought, ‘I need to listen to these guys.’ So that was really how it came about.”
Young, 72, said his decision to sell was driven in part by an aging group of investors in the team, whom he said are “satisfied” with the results of the transaction.
Young also sold the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, to DBH. The company now owns nearly a third of baseball’s Triple-A franchises, as well as a handful of Double-A teams.
“Looking at what happened with those transactions, team leadership and front office staff stayed in place,” Gregory said. “This seems like a good thing for the team and for Norfolk and the surrounding area.”
The Orioles, who have been affiliated with the Tides since 2007, are on board. In a statement, minor league operations director Kent Qualls thanked Young and the ownership group “for the outstanding partnership over our last 17 seasons in Norfolk,” adding that Baltimore looks forward to a continued affiliation with the city alongside DBH.
Pat Battle and Peter Freund, executive chairman and CEO, respectively, of DBH, expressed their desire for continuity.
“We are thrilled to add this iconic Triple-A franchise to the DBH family and immensely appreciative to be entrusted with continuing Ken’s notable legacy in Norfolk,” they said in a statement. “We are very enthusiastic about the Tides’ future, the incredible staff that is already in place and the continued partnership with the Orioles in the Norfolk community.”
A proposed casino beyond left field at Harbor Park has gone through a handful of false starts, and its future remains unknown. Young, who lives in Tampa, Florida, said the casino project “really has no bearing on this transaction.”
His memories of his time in the city are fond.
“I will say that I loved being in Norfolk and having the team there and the fans and everything else,” Young said. “Just great. A good relationship with the city — all of those things. But it was the right time to do this, and they gave us a good offer.”
Last month, the Tides won their first IL title since 1985. They followed that by winning the Triple-A National Championship Game in Las Vegas.
Norfolk’s roster this season included several of the Orioles’ most highly regarded prospects, including 19-year-old shortstop Jackson Holliday, the top-ranked prospect in all of baseball.
The team’s attendance was the highest it had been since 2008.
“It has been a fantastic year for the Tides, capping off Ken’s legendary ownership tenure,” Gregory said. “The entire staff here thanks Ken for all that he’s done for Norfolk and for minor league baseball.”