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Purchase of 51s pending

He made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

A classic line from “The Godfather,” it also was how Derek Stevens of the Stevens Baseball Group reached an agreement to buy the Las Vegas 51s from Mandalay Baseball Properties and CEO Ken Stickney.

“It wasn’t anything we planned. It really was an offer we couldn’t refuse,” said Stickney, whose family has owned Las Vegas’ Triple-A franchise for the last 15 years. “It was a significant enough offer. It would’ve been imprudent for us not to strongly consider it, and our board decided to accept it.”

While neither side would say what the offer was, Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller paid $20 million in 2004 to buy the Salt Lake Bees Triple-A team.

Stevens, whose family has a significant number of real estate holdings in its hometown of Detroit and Southern Nevada, bought a ticket to a 51s game last season, walked into Cashman Field and told team president Don Logan he was interested in purchasing the team.

“Lately we’ve made a number of investments in Las Vegas, and when this opportunity presented itself, all the stars aligned,” Stevens said. “We love Vegas, we love the growth of Vegas and the growth of downtown. We’re real excited.”

Stevens said it was important to him to keep Logan as club president and general manager.

“A key thing in working the deal out was allowing Don to stay as president and GM,” Stevens said. “We really hit it off, and in my opinion, Don Logan is the heart and soul of Las Vegas baseball.”

Stevens said there were lengthy negotiations involved with the sale and it was not simply a case of him making a huge offer from the outset.

“We negotiated back and forth over a good period of time,” he said.

Stevens, 40, recently purchased a home in Summerlin and said he plans to keep the franchise in Las Vegas.

“Everything we’re about has to do with the fact that we love Las Vegas, we love Nevada and we’re absolutely keeping the team here,” he said. “Our intent is to really try to grow the attendance, grow the excitement about the Las Vegas baseball club and go from there.”

The 51s, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, went 67-77 this year and attracted 371,676 fans, the third-largest total in the franchise’s 25-year history here.

With the sale still pending approval — a process that could take up to eight weeks — Stevens said he wasn’t prepared to discuss any possible changes he had planned.

But he did say that “certainly at some point, a newer stadium would be helpful.”

Stickney sounded confident Stevens will get a new stadium built.

“The Stevens Group has every intention of securing a stadium in some way, shape or form,” he said. “Securing a new stadium is real important for the long-term financial viability of the franchise, and they’re well-equipped to do that.”

Stickney, 45, and his father, Hank, bought the then-Las Vegas Stars from original franchise owner Larry Koentopp in 1992, and Ken stayed on as CEO when Mandalay purchased the team in 2001.

“This is real emotional for me. This has been a big part of my life and it’s hard to let it go,” Stickney said. “I wanted to find a good steward for the team because we love the team. I know they’re real good, solid people, and I think they’ll be a real credit to the franchise and to the Las Vegas community.”

Mandalay Baseball Properties owns and operates many minor league franchises, including the Double-A Erie (Pa.) SeaWolves and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre (Pa.) Yankees. Stickney said the sale of the 51s allows the company to “reshuffle its assets.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0354.

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