Eau Claire Express Ownership
Posted: November 16, 2007
The creation of the Eau Claire Express professional baseball team of the Northwoods League is one of the best things that has happened for family-oriented local entertainment in the last five years in West Central Wisconsin. Unfortunately, a lesson has been learned that it is often more difficult than first thought to operate an enterprise as a partnership.
Two years ago, Dr. Jeff Jones dismissed his general manager and minority team owner Bill Rowlett. Dr. Jones asked Rowlett to sell him the remaining ownership interest in the business - and Rowlett declined. Consequently, Rowlett filed a lawsuit against Dr. Jones as he attempted to confirm the company's financial situation. I have seen a number of similar civil cases over the years as I reported legal news within the area court system as owner of The Bottom Line. This particular case was pretty much a head-butt by both parties.
I am not going to say that either party was wrong in this situation. I have no idea what happened when the partners decided to differ on significant issues as it affected the potential prosperity of the business. What I do know, though, is that this settlement is probably the best alternative for the future success of the Eau Claire Express. I say this because Rowlett has promised to retain the existing administrative staff and has familiarity with the program since he hired current field manager Dale Varsho and then-intern/now-marketing director Brent Schroedel.
It could have been worse. Had the new owner of the Eau Claire Express been an outsider, the team could have been in a bit of flux, which may have affected the team's ability to attract the same sponsors and create the same winning environment that the team produced in last year's second place finish in the Northwoods League. On the other hand, it should be noted that while a winning product on the ball diamond in this professional league is exciting and attracts larger crowds, the real goal of the league as a whole is to develop college-level players and give them an opportunity to showcase their talents for a potential rise through the professional ranks.
This issue reminds me of the phrase that I said to myself after I moved into a college dormitory for the first time: "You don't know someone until you live with them." Figuratively speaking, the same can be said for being in a business partnership. Dr. Jones has had a successful business career and I am sure will find other investment opportunities and/or community projects to support that promote the Chippewa Valley in a positive way. That is what he did four years ago when he helped launch the Eau Claire Express.