SAN FRANCISCO -- Since their inception in 1883, the Giants have had only nine principal owners. Such stability suggests that each owner treated the franchise like an heirloom, something to be preserved and passed carefully to each successor. This certainly appeared to be the case Friday, when Giants president and managing general partner Peter Magowan announced that he will retire on Oct. 1, at the end of the regular season. William H. Neukom, a general partner in the ownership group, will succeed Magowan as managing general partner, while executive vice president and chief operating officer Larry Baer will become president. The ownership change is subject to the approval of Major League Baseball. That's expected to occur at the next scheduled ownership meeting, Aug. 13-14 in Washington, D.C.
Magowan felt certain that he's leaving the franchise in good hands with Neukom, a member of the club's ownership group since 1995. "I have real confidence that Bill cares. He's going to try to do the right things for our fans, which is to win," Magowan said. Neukom, 66, said that he was humbled to become the club's 10th owner -- "That's a great statistic," he said -- and vowed to devote himself to his new endeavor. He's currently president of the American Bar Association, but his one-year tenure will end Aug. 12, enabling him to focus on the Giants after Magowan officially leaves. Neukom lives in Seattle, but he intends to establish a home in the Bay Area because, as he said, "this is the kind of job that can't be done in an off-handed way." The transition promises to be seamless, particularly since Baer has acted in conjunction with Magowan since the latter took control of the team in 1993. Neukom also said that Magowan will serve as president emeritus for one year following his retirement date to facilitate the changing of the guard. General manager Brian Sabean, who's signed through 2009 with a club option for 2010, is expected to keep his job. Neukom did, however, reserve the right to evaluate Sabean at the proper time. "I have a lot of appreciation for the job Brian has done or is doing," Neukom said. Neukom, who revealed his ardor for baseball and the Giants by discussing the pleasures of keeping score and memories of attending games at Candlestick Park, spared nothing in expressing his commitment to his impending duties. "Baseball is this nation's pastime and is a family sport," said Neukom, who grew up in San Mateo and is a graduate of San Mateo High School, Dartmouth College and Stanford Law School. "We want to make sure that the Giants lead both leagues in terms of quality experience that our fans have when they come to this ballpark to see baseball played the way it should be played." Magowan, 66, explained his retirement in simple terms: "I'm leaving because I think the time is right for me and my family." He denied that other factors induced him to resign, such as the Giants' three consecutive losing seasons, the performance-enhancing drug controversy swirling around former San Francisco star Barry Bonds, the club's involvement in the Mitchell Report or pressure from Commissioner Bud Selig. Magowan was especially pointed about the Mitchell Report, noting it didn't include the full side of the Giants' version of events. Magowan pointed out that he has spent 29 years in "pressure-packed" business environments -- 13 years as chief executive officer of Safeway Inc. besides his Giants tenure. "Inevitably, when you do that, I think you make some sacrifices," said Magowan, who sported a Giants-orange shirt. At this juncture, Magowan added, he and his wife, Debby, want to devote more time to their 10 grandchildren. Magowan said that he began contemplating retirement during a Christmas-week vacation with his wife and other relatives at their cabin in Beaver Creek, Colo. As much as they were enjoying themselves, Magowan said he realized that such leisure opportunities would remain rare as long as he ran the Giants, due to the demands of the baseball schedule. By Spring Training, Magowan was virtually ready to say goodbye. But Selig, whom he was obliged to contact, was swamped with trips overseas and negotiations with the Players Association about the recommendations put forth in the Mitchell Report, among other issues. Selig's crowded schedule, along with the need to confide in high-level Giants employees, forced Magowan to wait. Asked about the legacy he believes he'll leave, Magowan cited his successful efforts to lead the group that purchased the club, which prevented the Giants from moving to Tampa/St. Petersburg after the 1992 season, as well as the construction of AT&T Park, which opened in 2000. "The Giants, in this ballpark, don't have to worry about leaving ever again," said Magowan, a minority owner who was selected to run the team by the general partnership he assembled. He's also proud of the eight-year run of success (1997-2004) unmatched since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. The Giants reached the postseason four times in that stretch and reached a Wild Card playoff game once while averaging 92 victories per year. Magowan also has been helpful in sustaining the Giants' heritage by maintaining the visibility of former stars such as Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. More recently, Magowan has weathered considerable criticism. He received unwanted attention when the Mitchell Report, which examined the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, declared that he and Sabean did not sufficiently follow through on suspicions of Bonds' alleged steroid use. Magowan also seemingly could do nothing right, at least to the public, regarding Bonds. Giants management came under fire for its perceived coddling of the all-time home run leader, yet many fans were outraged when the club announced last September that it would not re-sign Bonds, ending his 15-year tenure with the team. The signing of Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract before the 2007 season also has come under fire, given the left-hander's 11-20 record as a Giant. "The Barry Zito signing, I'd have to say at this point, is clearly a failure. That doesn't mean I believe that at the end of the day -- and the day's a long way off -- we'll say it was a failure," Magowan said. Infielder Rich Aurilia, the current Giant who has known Magowan the longest, spoke warmly of his boss. "He's basically an owner who's a fan of the game and a fan of our team," said Aurilia, a Giant from 1995-2003 who began his second tour of duty with the team last year. "He always seemed to do everything he could to help us get a winning team on the field." Selig issued a statement that read, in part, "Personally, I will miss Peter. I will miss his wisdom and his counsel. I am grateful, though, that he leaves the ballclub in the very capable hands of Bill Neukom, the club's new managing general partner, and Larry Baer, the chief operating officer and, now, the president of the Giants."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.