Famed Exec Billy Beane Poised to Move on From Baseball

    • Beane’s SPAC is working on a deal to merge with John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group.
    • Under the deal, Beane would focus on European ventures.

Longtime Oakland A’s executive Billy Beane, known for pioneering the “moneyball” front office strategy and later portrayed by Brad Pitt in a feature film, is set to leave baseball behind, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Beane co-chairs RedBall Acquisition Corp. — a special purpose acquisition company that raised $575 million in August — which has a deal to merge with Red Sox owner John Henry and his various sports entities, taking them public. Henry also owns Liverpool FC and part of the Boston Globe. 

RedBall, a joint venture between Beane and RedBird Capital, would purchase less than 25% of Fenway Sports Group under the deal, valuing it at $8 billion, the Journal reported. 

When RedBall launched, it was the first SPAC dedicated to sports. But since then, a number of sports-focused blank-check companies have launched, fueled by the volatility created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If the merger goes through, Beane will “step aside from working in a baseball front office” and focus on potential investments in Europe, meaning he wouldn’t take part in running the Red Sox, the Journal reported. The “hope” is to get a deal done by the end of the year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Beane, the current executive vice president of baseball operations for the A’s, joined their front office in 1990. He also has a very small ownership stake — reportedly 1% — in the team. 

Michael Lewis released his book “Moneyball,” which highlighted Beane’s then-revolutionary analytics-based strategy, in 2003. The A’s have made the playoffs 11 times in the last 21 seasons under Beane, but haven’t advanced past the Division Series since 2006. 

Henry has been courting Beane since the early 2000s, when he made him a $12.5 million offer to be the Red Sox’s general manager. He later tried to bring Beane on in a role with Liverpool FC as Beane’s interest in European soccer was growing. 

Beane joined the group that purchased English second-tied team Barnsley Football Club in 2017, and in September, bought a minority share of AZ Alkmaar, a Dutch professional team, for which he had already served as an advisor.

In July, RedBird acquired the majority stake in second-tier French soccer club Toulouse FC and installed Damien Comolli as president.