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Wednesday, Apr 23rd

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Housecleaning in Syracuse: Simone, board out

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Syracuse Chiefs

John Simone's bid to take over the Syracuse Chiefs (Class AAA; International League) was rejected by the team's board, and the resulting reorg will see him leaving the team and a new board installed.

In the end, no one outside Syracuse sought a deal to manage the Chiefs in the wake of a $500,000 loss in 2013 and the decision by the board of directors and Bill Dutch to seek a new approach for franchise. The team is facing some serious issues: rent on NBT Bank Stadium hasn't been paid since the spring, and longtime front-office exec Tex Simone left the team as well.

The decision came down to two proposals put forward by those with ties to the organization; two outside bids for management were rejected early. The first inside bid, from John Simone and backed by Toronto investor Elliott Wahle (whose background includes retail ventures like Circuit City and Levitz), would have invested $1 million into the team in exchange for preferred shares in the team -- shares that would give the group control of the Chiefs and potentially the power to move the franchise. (Simone and Wahle say they never intended to move the team, but failed to put the guarantee in writing.)

Instead, the board went with a plan developed by Dutch and four other local investors calling for a lower level of investment -- some $500,000 -- but would guarantee the team stayed in Syracuse. From Syracuse.com:

The approved plan comes from board president Bill Dutch and board members Joe Janowski and Paul Solomon, plus three other unidentified shareholders. The six will, over a period of time, loan the team $500,000 in exchange for the gradual acquisition of 600 shares of stock....

Dutch's group, Chiefs First LLC, has the right to select up to eight members of the new, pared-down, 13-member board. Dutch said the new group will be appointed within a few weeks and will select the team's general manager. Leaving NBT Bank Stadium on Monday night, John Simone understood it will not be him.

"That's the way it goes," Simone said. "You win some and you lose some in business. Things come to an end.

"I have no desire ... to stay here anymore. They have a new group of people. They will have their own general manager. Good luck to them.''

It truly is the end of an era in Syracuse: this will be the first time since 1960 a Simone isn't working for the Chiefs in some capacity. But operations were certainly tired in Syracuse, and a fresh approach was inevitable.

RELATED STORIES: Chiefs behind on ballpark rent to Onondaga County; Mobley: Chiefs financial situation "needs a little attention"; More bad news out of Syracuse: Chiefs post $500K lost for 2013; Tex Simone retires as Syracuse Chiefs COO/EVP; Ennui in Syracuse

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