It's really pretty simple. I'm here today because I'm a life-long Reds fan, also. I love baseball. Always have. Since I was a little kid.
I also love Cincinnati. I believe in this city and the people who live here. It's where our family business started, grew and prospered. And it's where I became a fan of the Cincinnati Reds.
I remember listening to Reds games on my big old Crosley radio. They called it portable, but it was 20 times bigger than today's portables. I'd hide it under the covers at night when I was 6 or 7 years old and had to go to school the next day. I'd listen to the Reds games and Waite Hoyt. I loved it. Even rain delays were great because Waite would tell stories about his early days playing with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Some of you may remember -- those old radios had vacuum tubes, and they really got hot. One night I dozed off, and that radio got so hot it set my covers on fire.
My parents were pretty hot, too. It was a while before I could listen to Waite Hoyt and the Reds again.
In that very personal and special way a kid loves a baseball team, the Reds became part of my life. Just as they've become part of yours. Today is a new chapter in my life with the Cincinnati Reds. Today I'm proud to be both a fan and an owner of the Reds -- the first and one of the most storied franchises in professional baseball.
I want to make a promise today to Reds fans wherever you are -- a promise from one fan to another -- we will bring championship baseball to Cincinnati. This is just our first day on the job. From this moment forward, we will work toward that dream, and will not rest until we exceed the expectations of our fans.
The Reds belong at the top of the standings. Our tradition is one of success and achievement. Only three other teams have won more World Series than the Reds -- the Yankees, the Cardinals and the Red Sox. We want to bring that tradition home.
Before I go any further, on behalf of the entire ownership group, I want to thank Carl Lindner for his stewardship of the Cincinnati Reds.
We respect him deeply as man of integrity and applaud his intense loyalty to Cincinnati. I want to thank George Strike, a past and continuing partner in the Reds, for teaming with Carl to allow us the opportunity to purchase this fabled franchise. We respect their continuing the tradition of nearly 140 years of hometown ownership of this community jewel and this American icon.
If it hadn't been for Carl's help and advice and George's as well, we wouldn't be here today as the new owners. We're happy that they are retaining a portion of their shares, and we're happy that Carl has agreed to stay on board as honorary chairman. Longtime fans and owners Louise Nippert and Bill Reik will continue with the group as well.
I also want to introduce my partners in the new ownership group:
W. Joseph Williams, Jr. (Joe Williams) will serve as chairman.
Tom Williams will serve as vice-chair and treasurer. The Williams family has long been associated with the Reds and, with me, most recently we were partners of the St. Louis Cardinals.
We were fortunate to have had many people with Cincinnati ties express interest in joining the ownership group. Completing our group of owners is a most impressive list of accomplished business and civic leaders -- all of whom are passionate about the Reds. Because Major League Baseball has not yet completed approval, we are unable to single any out at this time. Within a few weeks, a list of our partners will be disclosed.
In addition to sharing my long history with the Reds, these men and women also share my passion. Together we will work with the staff, the team and the fans to bring championship baseball to Cincinnati.
We're not new to this game. Some in our ownership group have been in baseball as part owners of the Reds and with the Orioles, the Rangers and the Cardinals. As partners in St. Louis, Tom and Joe Williams and I had front-row seats for the transformation of the St. Louis franchise.
Ten years ago, the Cardinals' situation was almost identical to where the Reds are now. A long-range plan that focused on building a world class organization by putting the right people in the right jobs was put in place. Improved performance led to improved attendance. Improved attendance led to more revenue. More revenue led to more payroll. Now, the Cardinals are a strong, consistent winner.
That's where we want to be. We're buying the Reds to win. Anything else is unacceptable. We will not rest until we are putting a contender on the field ... year in and year out.
Our first step will be to create one of the most respected organizations in baseball. We'll forge a winning attitude and culture. We'll ensure that the best people are in the right roles with the resources to win.
To do this, we are going to change the management structure by separating responsibility for the business operation and the baseball operation. This will allow our people to focus on delivering the best possible results in their areas of responsibility.
I will serve as chief executive officer, with both groups reporting to me. I'm happy to announce that John Allen has agreed to stay with us as chief operating officer to head our business operation. Our general manager and head of baseball operations, Dan O'Brien, also will report directly to me.
Second, we'll have a competitive budget. We'll operate this year with a budget in the $60-65 million range, comparable to last year. There are very successful teams with comparable budgets. For example the White Sox, Astros and Athletics. Two of those three teams were in the World Series last year.
Or, Cleveland, who finished two games out of the playoffs, only had two-thirds of our budget. Most importantly, we will invest our budget opportunistically and strategically. Our experience as owners with other franchises has proven that it's not so much what you spend -- it's how you spend that's most important.
As we build our organization, we'll likely do some other things differently once we get our sleeves rolled up. I intend to work out of the Reds offices on a daily basis until I have an insider's understanding of how we work -- what we're doing well and what we can do better.
I'm sure there are other issues and personnel matters that you have specific questions about. We don't have all the answers yet. It's our first day. But we're moving quickly. We met with all the Reds front office and operations staff and talked with our manager and coaches to discuss our plans and hit the ground running. Spring Training opens in 27 days, and we will be ready.
Third, we're also going to increase our community involvement. We are big believers in giving and will work to make the Reds Community Fund more visible and impactful than ever.
Along those lines, we'll also be reaching out more aggressively to our fans in this city, the region and throughout the nation. We will be visible within the community...telling our story and strategy. Our goal is to make the fans in Reds Nation feel a part of the baseball experience and our communications will be timely, transparent and truthful to foster this sense of pride and passion through understanding.
And, as I told employees this morning, we will work to make the experience at Great American Ball Park even more memorable. Kids and adults will want to be here. This is baseball. This is fun. And it should be fun for everyone, whether you're an associate, a player or a fan. And just as I'm proud to be a Reds owner, I am proud to be a Reds fan.
I want our fans to be proud and passionate about being Reds fans. Look for Reds employees in the stands periodically asking for your opinion on how we can make being at the ballpark a memorable experience.
The bottom line is that we are not going to rest until our fans are happy. My wife, Susie, has a pillow in our living room. Stitched right into that pillow is the phrase, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
In our Reds organization, if our fans ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
That is going to be our driving force.
We will create a winning team worthy of the unwavering loyalty of our fans.
We are America's first professional baseball team. We believe that once again we will be the best. We've seen how a winning organization shines a national spotlight on our community and our region. That's what this community deserves.
I thank you all for this opportunity.
We look forward to bringing championship baseball home for all of us.