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Volcanoes launch $54 million “shakedown” lawsuit against rival owner
Jerry Walker alleges other owners secretly plotted to boot his team from minor leagues
In a growing list of legal actions taken since Major League Baseball discontinued its Minor League relationship with Jerry Walker and his defunct Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, the newest federal litigation comes aimed at a rival team owner who Walker alleges secretly plotted to “destroy” the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
According to reporting from The Post and Courier in South Carolina, Walker and his company, Sports Enterprises Inc. (SEI), filed a lawsuit in mid-April 2023 against the Goldklang Group - a business group that owns a couple East Coast minor league teams and, strangely enough, is co-owned by famous comedian actor Bill Murray (who serves as “Director of Fun” for one of their minor league teams, the Charleston Riverdogs).
Walker claims in his legal filings that Goldklang’s principal owner, Marvin Goldklang, conspired with other minor league team owners to create a “self-dealing” scenario during negotiations to shrink the roster of minor league teams that Major League Baseball was willing to support in the 2021 season (and beyond).
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Walker claims that he, and other owners whose teams were jettisoned from the MiLB in 2021 during cost-saving maneuvers were “stabbed in the back.”
Attorney’s for Goldklang, a Minor League team owner &investment banker who also owns a small slice of the New York Yankees, described Walker’s lawsuit as a “baseless money grab.”
The gist of Walker’s complaint is that Goldklang and others refused repeated attempts by Jerry Walker to join the owners’ committee meant to negotiate the contraction with MLB. And with no presence on the committee, according to sports media outlet The Athletic, Walker is accusing Goldklang of “secretly acquiescing to MLB’s proposal, to the detriment of the 43 minor league clubs that would be excluded.”
The question around this case seems to be - was this owners’ committee even in a position to exercise any power or influence over MLB’s decision on the contraction itself, and what teams to cut?
And Walker, in his complaint, alleges that Goldklang “profited from his self-dealing as a member of the Negotiating Committee by ensuring that his two minor league affiliated clubs were not part of the contraction.”
According to reporting from The Post and Courier in South Carolina, attorneys for Goldklang seem confident Walker’s lawsuit will be defeated in court:
“Mr. Goldklang’s teams have had a well-earned reputation for excellence in the industry over a period of more than 30 years and have been among the most desired affiliate relationships in minor league baseball, none of which has had any relationship to the plaintiff’s team. Mr. Goldklang has never met or otherwise interacted with the plaintiff or its ownership, on any matter or at any time. We believe that the judicial process will expose this litigation as nothing more than a shakedown.”
Walker and SEI’s latest litigation comes on the heels of a legal defeat in federal court for Keizer’s languishing baseball business in late October 2022. Along with several other teams that were restructured out of the Minor League Baseball system, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes lost an antitrust challenge - primarily because of a 120 year-old antitrust exemption Major League Baseball has enjoyed since 1903.
According to The Athletic, this litigation against Goldklang is the 3rd lawsuit that Walker and SEI have brought with respect to Major League Baseball’s 2021 contraction of the Minor League system by 25 teams - including the formerly San Francisco Giants-affiliated Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
Salem-Keizer Proletariat is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.