Schumacher prepares for eventual Indians exit

August 17, 2009

Max Schumacher is healthy, feels good and wants to continue working for the Indianapolis Indians full time.

But with his 77th birthday approaching in October, Schumacher, chairman and president of the team, needs a succession plan. In recent years, Schumacher has begun to speak more openly to the board about his plan, board members said, and this month, for the first time, he spoke with IBJ about his eventual departure from the team.

But not before reiterating that he has no imminent plans to retire.

“I still feel good, and I think I have something to contribute,” said Schumacher, who started with the team as ticket manager in 1957.

Two of Schumacher’s sons, Bruce, 49, and Mark, 37, work for the Indians. Bruce is corporate development director, and also serves as the game-day public address announcer, and Mark is the team’s merchandising director.

Schumacher said he’d like to see both of them as part of the next generation of the Indians’ leadership. A likely scenario would be Bruce replacing Cal Burleson, who became general manager in 1998, when Burleson retires, then replacing his dad as president. Mark would serve as Bruce’s successor, but the brothers could serve as co-leaders of the franchise until Bruce retires.

Bruce and Mark, like their father, choose their words carefully. Both said they have an interest in continuing long term with the team, and the trio of Schumachers agree the No. 1 goal is to keep the franchise in Indianapolis.

“You wouldn’t have to be around my dad very long to know how fervently he feels about this team and about this city,” Bruce Schumacher said. “Those of us who are in a position to be caretakers of the team want to see that continue.”

The ownership of Indians stock will be key to making it happen.

Schumacher owns 40 percent of the thinly traded public company. There have been fears that if he dies without proper estate planning, the stock could go up for sale and the franchise, which has called Indianapolis home since 1902, would be up for grabs.

That is a particular concern because the team has an ongoing stock buy-back program. If more shares are purchased by the team and retired, Schumacher would eventually own a majority share.

But he said he has discussed with his family passing the stock to the next generation. All three of Schumacher’s sons live in Indianapolis and his daughter lives in Florida.

Schumacher said if his wife outlives him, she will become the sole possessor of the stock, and when she dies it will be passed on to his children, with Bruce and Mark likely serving as the stock’s caretakers. With their dad’s stock in hand, it’s also likely one of them would become board chairman.

Keeping the team local is the primary objective of the Indians board, which enacted poison-pill language in the team’s articles of incorporation in 1990 and strengthened it in 2002 to prevent a takeover that might jeopardize the team’s local operation.

“We feel we have taken the appropriate steps to assure that the Indianapolis Indians will continue to be a community asset,” said board member Milt Thompson. “Max’s stock has more to do with his own personal estate planning.”

For the Schumachers, the Indians have long been a family affair.

In his first year working for the Indians, Schumacher met Judith Whybrew, who began working as an intern in the ticket office while a student at Indiana University. Judith eventually left the team, but a few years later she and Schumacher were married.

Schumacher’s children spent countless summer days at Bush Stadium, watching games and working odd jobs—from serving as bat boy to operating the manual outfield scoreboard.

“Being around the players in the clubhouse and all that history was just amazing,” Mark Schumacher said.

But getting a job with the Indians was more than a game, even though their dad ran the team. Bruce joined the Tribe full time in 1983 after graduating from Indiana University, and Mark, a Marian College graduate, a decade later.

“He made us fill out an application like everybody else,” Bruce Schumacher said. “I even interviewed with the board of directors to get their approval.”•


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