In his first major court response to a lawsuit brought by a group of minority team partners, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has called for the case to be settled through arbitration.
Wednesday’s filing in Pinellas County claims the owners’ partnership agreement allows Sternberg to invoke an arbitration clause in the event of disputes that can’t be settled in mediation. The motion says mediation attempts last fall were unsuccessful, and therefore arbitration — not litigation — is the binding next step.
Five partners who collectively own about 9.6 percent of the team — Robert Kleinert, Gary Markel, Stephen M. Waters and a trust in his name, and the MacDougaled Family Limited Partnership — sued Sternberg in May, alleging he was running a “relentless scheme” to consolidate control over the team and squeeze his limited partners out of profits.
Lawyers for Sternberg disputed the claims in Wednesday’s motion. calling them “baseless accusations and allegations.”
“Virtually all of the allegations set forth ... are based on inaccurate or incorrect facts and assumptions, many of which the Plaintiffs already know are untrue,” the motion states.
The motion said Sternberg’s transfer of legal team ownership to a limited liability corporation under his name “was not a ‘theft’ of the Club by Mr. Sternberg as they disingenuously allege,” but “simply an internal restructuring.” Sternberg’s corporation, and therefore the team, remain a wholly owned subsidiary of the original partnership, the motion states.
Messages for the plaintiff’s attorney, Leonard Englander, were not immediately returned Thursday morning. A spokesperson for the Rays said Sternberg and the team declined to comment.