The long-term future of the Indianapolis Indians looks secure—in more ways than one.
Last month, Randy Lewandowski, 46, was elevated to president and general manager, and Bruce Schumacher, 57, was named CEO and chairman. The leadership of the team seems to be in place for the next 15 or so years.
Those promotions came in the wake of Max Schumacher’s decision to step away from his day-to-day leadership role with the AAA minor league baseball team. At one time, Max Schumacher served as the team’s general manager, CEO, president and chairman. He retains the title of chairman emeritus.
Schumacher, 84, has been with the team for six decades. And during that time he’s amassed more than 43 percent of the team’ stock.
So naturally his retirement from daily involvement in the team raised some questions about the future ownership of his shares—and the team.
If the team continues to buy back shares and retire them as it has done in the past, Max Schumacher’s stake could eventually edge over 50 percent, which would effectively give him controlling interest in the franchise that has become vitally important to the city and its downtown.
Annual attendance for the Indians regularly tops 600,000. That’s about as many fans as the city’s major league teams—the Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Colts—draw downtown in a given year. So the Indians’ economic impact on the city can’t be underestimated.
The team's value has steadily risen to more than $40 million, and there certainly would be parties interested in acquiring a large share of the team. Max Schumacher likely could charge a premium for his stock if he wanted to cash out for estate planning purposes.
And while a solid chunk of the Indians’ potential appeal to a buyer would be based on the city’s support of the team and its sweet home venue—Victory Field—on the west edge of downtown, you never know what would happen if an out-of-town investor acquired a majority share of the team. And out-of-town investors, including Sardar Biglari of Steak 'n Shake parent firm Biglari Holdings Inc., have pursued Indians stock in the past.
Keeping the team local has long been a 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. Still, out-of-town ownership of the team, even if it doesn't move the team, could do all sorts of things to the team's operations that locals might find distasteful.
But Bruce, Max’s son, says the Schumacher family has no interest in divesting itself of Indians stock.
“The plan is, [Max's] stock will stay within the [Schumacher] family,” said Bruce, who has worked for the team since 1983.
That should be a relief to downtown hotels and restaurants as well as city officials. Max and Bruce have been two of the primary proponents of keeping Victory Field in prime condition since it opened in 1996, and maintaining affordable prices for tickets and concessions.
“We know what this team means to the city of Indianapolis,” Bruce Schumacher said, “and we certainly want to continue that relationship.”