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Fowler group 'heading toward' deal to buy Padres, though deal isn't quite done

A group headed by prominent San Diego businessman Ron Fowler and including the family of former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley is "heading toward'' a deal to buy the Padres, sources say.

Fowler, a prominent San Diego businessman, was first reported to be fronting the O'Malley group by CBSSports.com's Scott Miller in a June 25 report saying the group had entered into exclusive negotiations with current owner John Moores.

Fowler later downplayed his potential role in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, but people familiar with the deal say the projected arrangement would indeed place Fowler in the lead role, with O'Malley, his two sons and two nephews also involved, with prominent but lesser roles in the recently-formed group.

Fowler likely is downplaying his role because he is in the tricky spot of being the lead limited partner in the local group that had been teaming with Jeff Moorad in trying to buy the Padres before Moorad dropped out once it became clear he wouldn't be approved. The Moorad-Fowler group currently owns 49 percent of the Padres, meaning Fowler technically has a role on both the buy and sell sides, according to sources.

The deal isn't quite completed, but people familiar with the negotiations suggest it is on track.

The sale price is expected to be $800 million, including $200 million in new TV money. Moorad's original deal to buy the team was for $500 million-plus. Moores stands to make a lot of money from the new sale price, as does the Moorad-Fowler group.

The other two finalists for the Padres were Steve Kaplan, principle of Oaktree Capital in Los Angeles, whose group included former superagent Dennis Gilbert, and Gary Jabara, an Orange County cell phone magnate.

Fowler's ties to O'Malley go back to Fowler acting as his beer distributor when O'Malley owned the Dodgers. Fowler is chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments Inc., which owns Mesa Distributing. He is known for charitable deeds in San Diego, and gave millions to build the new University of San Diego baseball stadium, which will bear his name.

Fowler's new role gives the team a local lead, and Fowler's reputation within baseball appears positive, meaning a quick approval by MLB is possible, perhaps even by the August owners meetings. As Miller reported, Fowler is expected to keep in place the current baseball department, headed by GM Josh Byrnes, whose contract runs through 2016.

Fowler quietly raised more local money, and the O'Malley team, which apparently didn't have all the cash needed, makes a perfect partner for him since their lower money stake makes them a fit for the limited role. Peter O'Malley is expected to have a title with the team, and his sons Brian and Kevin and nephews Peter and Tom Seidler also will have roles.

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