Iowa Cubs Ownership Group Donates Team Proceeds to Employees

As one of his last acts before leaving as longtime president and principal owner of the Iowa Cubs, Michael Gartner gathered all of the team’s employees in the Betfred Sports Lounge in Principal Park left field for a surprise.

Gartner and his four associates finalized the sale of the team and brought some of the employees into the suite and the rest on vacation on a zoom call to thank them last Tuesday. But before leaving, Gartner, who had a stack of envelopes, told them all he was going to hand them new business cards.

“Everyone kind of laughed and at that point, just with their tone, we knew there was going to be more than business cards,” Iowa Cubs broadcaster Alex Cohen said.

The envelopes were not business cards. They were paychecks. Gartner and its partners shared the profits from the sale of the club to the 23 full-time staff on the team. Everyone, including the club keeper, received a check based on how many years of work for the team. Each employee received $ 2,000 for each year spent there, even as an intern.

When Gartner broke the news to them, people were overjoyed and emotional.

Iowa Cubs owner Michael Gartner shared $ 600,000 in the profits from the Cubs sale.

“It was pretty crazy,” Cohen said. “People were crying and shaking”

For many in the room and on the call it was life changing money. A total of $ 600,000 that the five made from the sale went to the employees. The oldest employee received a check for $ 70,000.

Everyone got something from the sale.

“It’s a fantastic gesture no matter what company you are in, but being in minor league baseball with a lot of long days, a lot of long hours and a lot of hard work, it was really enjoyable and appreciated,” he said. said Scott Sailor, the team’s former communications director.

It was a surprising gesture, but not entirely shocking. Gartner, 83, has been popular with fans and employees since he and a group of associates bought the Triple-A team and the main Chicago Cubs affiliate in 1999. Gartner, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former NBC News chairman and editor of the Des Moines Register, added bleachers in the right field, LED lights around the park and a fountain for kids to play.

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Gartner regularly walked through the park and carried a baseball to hand out to the children he walked past. When the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 Minor League Baseball season, Gartner, unlike owners of the whole sport, did not fire or put its staff on leave. Instead, he kept them employed during the work stoppage so they could get by.

Turns out that was just one of his biggest gestures.

In early December, the team announced that Gartner and his four associates, his son, Vice President Mike C. Gartner, Des Moines lawyer Mike Giudicessi, Team President and CEO Sam Bernabe and Dr. Doug Dorner had sold the team to Diamond Baseball. Holdings, a subsidiary of Endeavor, the global sports and entertainment company. The sale closed on December 28. But before that, Gartner came up with the idea of ​​rewarding all the staff. He presented the idea to Bernabe who loved it. Gartner said other owners in his group were doing the same.

“None of us gave it a second thought,” said Michael Gartner.

“These people could really, really use the money. They have mortgages. They have small children. Some of them probably have college debts and car payments. It helps them overcome the barriers.”

Sailor said the money is perfect with the holidays just around the corner. He used some of it on gifts for family members. A member of the stadium operations team is planning a wedding later this year.

They were all helped by the decision at the end of day meeting on Gartner’s last day at the park. But Sailor, who also worked for Gartner at the Ames Tribune and Des Moines Register, said it was a fitting final gesture for the longtime owner who went out of his way to get to know the fans, the employees. and park interns throughout the season. .

“It was totally in character,” Sailor said. “He’s the kind of guy he is. It might have surprised some of the others.”

That’s why Sailor took to Twitter to share the news of Gartner’s big gesture. The tweet, which generated more than 1,000 likes, caught the attention of Yahoo and The New York Times.

But the movement was not meant to attract attention.

“They are really nice people, great people and they deserve to share the proceeds of the sale,” Gartner said.

Tommy Birch, the Register’s featured sports company and reporter, has worked for the newspaper since 2008. He is the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sports Writer of the Year. Reach it at or 515-284-8468. Follow him on twitter @TommyBirch.

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