By Dennis Lin, Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal
Following the death of San Diego Padres chairman Peter Seidler, Major League Baseball has appointed Eric Kutsenda, a long-time business partner of the late owner, as the team’s interim control person, commissioner Rob Manfred told The Athletic on Thursday.
MLB requires each franchise to designate a person to be accountable for club operations. Former Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler was San Diego’s control person for eight years before Fowler stepped down and Seidler replaced him in November 2020.
Now Kutsenda, a co-founder and managing partner at Seidler’s private equity firm, has assumed control on a temporary basis. While it is unclear how long Kutsenda will serve in that capacity, league sources said the Seidler family intends to honor Seidler’s wishes by retaining ownership of the Padres. Seidler and his extended family own a combined majority of the franchise, according to sources, with Seidler’s stake having been transferred to a trust.
The Padres plan to publicly address their ownership situation next week.
“When we re-did the (MLB) constitution last time, we fixed a hole that we had. When a control person passed away, we didn’t have a process. So we put in place the concept of an interim control person,” Manfred told The Athletic at the league’s owners meetings in Arlington, Texas. “That individual doesn’t need to go through the whole control person change process, which can be lengthy. It’s obviously for a limited period of time. I used that procedure to appoint Eric Kutsenda as the interim control person, who’s been a partner of Peter’s for 30 years.”
Eric Kutsenda is the new Padres control person following Peter Seidler’s passing. Seidler’s stake in the team is in a trust. A different control person could be named down the road, but Kutsenda is in charge for now.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) November 16, 2023
Kutsenda joined Seidler Equity Partners in 1999 as the firm’s third founder and managing partner, alongside Seidler and his brother, Robert Seidler. A certified public accountant with degrees from the University of Illinois and DePaul University, Kutsenda was added to the Padres’ front office directory this summer as a special advisor to CEO Erik Greupner. In that role, Kutsenda represented Peter Seidler’s interests after the owner’s declining health sidelined him from day-to-day operations.
Kutsenda and Greupner have been involved in San Diego’s search for a new manager, which was paused after Seidler’s death on Tuesday, although team sources indicated Thursday that president of baseball operations A.J. Preller remains largely responsible for the final decision. The Padres, the only major-league club with a current managerial opening, have formally interviewed Mike Shildt, Ryan Flaherty, Benji Gil and Phil Nevin. A hiring announcement is expected next week.
Whoever gets the job will inherit a talented roster but also organizational uncertainty. Kutsenda and Greupner in late September presented a plan to MLB to reduce the Padres’ debts and other expenses by the start of the 2024 season, and the franchise is expected to significantly lower payroll from its recent $255 million range.
A true teardown, however, is unlikely. The Padres’ current 2024 payroll estimate of $198 million includes five players with nine-figure contracts and full no-trade protection: Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove. All of their signings were greenlighted by Seidler.
“The Padres have had a couple of fire sales in their past,” Seidler said at the Sports Business Journal’s World Congress of Sports conference in April. “There will never be another fire sale in San Diego, and I expect my family to own the franchise for 50, 75 more years, and then we’ll figure out what to do. Hopefully go for more. I’ll be talking from the grave.”
Seidler is survived by his wife, Sheel; three young children; his mother, Terry Seidler; and nine brothers and sisters.
(Photo: Mark Cunningham / MLB Photos via Getty Images)