Photo: Frederic Larson / Chronicle 1992
Peter A. Magowan, the charismatic Safeway supermarket magnate and owner and CEO of San Francisco Giants, who defended the team's move and led the construction of their water park , died Sunday afternoon at his home in Pacific Heights.
Magowan had been ill for several years, had surgery for prostate cancer and liver cancer, and had recently been hospitalized. According to his wife Debby Magowan, he died in the company of his family and friends. He was 76.
Magowan was Safway's CEO from 1979 to April 1993, when he took a 15-year tenure as Managing Partner of the Giants.
He hired the executives who built four World Series teams that won three championships, 2010, und 12 and & 14, and led the franchise and its owners to a significant financial success.
Magowan was also a shocking entry into the free-agent baseball market by a stingy franchise with the signing of All-Star outfielder Barry Bonds after the 1992 season.
Photo: LANCE IVERSEN / SFC
"Peter was a rare combination in the life of a close friend and mentor," said Larry Baer, president and CEO of the Giants. "We have maintained this relationship for three decades. When you really met Peter, you saw that he had a heart of gold.
Magowan, a preschooler of Stanford descent, brought Major League Baseball a patrician elegance when his management group came to Candlestick Park in 1993. In contrast to the tradition of hiding behind glass in a private suite in the ballpark, the owner sat in his business suit with the fans.
Magowan brought a stylish flair to the baseball stadium where he played most home games and he was able to do what others had failed to do: build a baseball stadium in downtown San Francisco – he became Third Street and King Street in 2000 opened – and this without tax money.
"He loved sitting in the stands with fans," said Baer, who often sat with him. "You had to twist your arm for a compelling business reason to get it into the chic suites."
On 9th February Magowan is added to the Giants Wall of Fame. He had prepared a speech that he hoped would live long enough to hold the event.
"I have often received an inappropriate loan because I prevented the team from going to Florida and building this playground," he wrote. "This is a very wrong view of our performance, because football would not have been built without the contribution of our partners."
His term was not undisputed.
Magowan was criticized in the milestone Mitchell report. written by former US Senator George Mitchell following an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball commissioned by baseball commissioner Bud Selig for blind eyesight on the use of such drugs by Giants players.
Years Later, Magowan expressed regret that he did not do more.
Nevertheless, Giants fans will remember Magowan as one of the civic leaders who helped in 1992 the team's move to St. Petersburg, Florida. Owner Bob Lurie had reached a sales agreement with a group that wanted to move the giants who had lost money.
In truth, the National League refused the sale and suggested that Lurie find local owners who would run the business in San Francisco. Magowan and Baer organized a Who's Who Area business elite in a partnership that bought the club for $ 100 million from Lurie.
The group included Charles B. Johnson, then director of the company now known as Franklin Templeton Investments. Johnson is today the largest shareholder of the Giants.
Photo: LOU DEMATTEIS / REUTERS
Peter Magowan saved baseball for San Francisco, "said Bud Selig, then baseball commissioner, in 2008, when Magowan resigned as managing partner.
"He should be recognized for that. That's fact. He has built a nice football field. Looking back on what he did in San Francisco, a city he loves, these are the two primary things.
After several failed attempts to build a publicly funded stadium to replace the aging, freezing Candlestick Park Giants under Magowan built the so-called Oracle Park. They used private funds that are common today, but at the time angered sports franchise owners who scoffed at the precedent.
The Giants broke in 1997 their $ 350,000 waterfront ballpark. Before the first game in 2000, it was Magowan and Baer threw the solemn first positions.
The team and playground are estimated to be well over $ 2 billion now.
"Take a look at the success the Giants have had in his regime," said Bruce Bochy, who has managed the field since 2007. "We are one of the most successful franchises in baseball. It is very impressive what has happened here since the acquisition of Peter. "
" I think we had a lot of influence, "Magowan said after his election to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
For Magowan, the Giant was a work of love and profit.
Peter Alden Magowan was born on April 5, 1942 in Manhattan, where he grew up on East 69th Street on Park Avenue. His maternal grandfather, Charles Merrill, co-founder of Merrill Lynch Brokerage, later became the largest investor in the Safeway supermarket chain.
After the New York Giants had won the National League pennant on Bobby Thomson's 1950 home run – "Shot Heard Round the World" – Magowan's father Robert told Peter that he would attend the next World Series game the next day.
Photo: Michael Macor / SFC
In the 2010 worship of Thomson, Magowan said, "He meant a lot to me. Not many people can honestly say that the moment that made them happiest in their lives took place at the age of nine. "
Magowan met Thomson in later years, but said when he was a kid," I would rather have met with Bobby Thomson than with the President of the United States. "
Magowans decision to keep the giants in San Francisco was born from the pain he felt when the club left his hometown for San Francisco in 1958.
I was heavily influenced by what happened to the Giants in New York, "he said. "I saw her go and it was so hard to understand. The Giants won the 1954 World Series, the Dodgers 1955, and two years later, both teams moved to California.
Magowan grew up as a city kid, but after school at St. Bernard's Boys School, the baseball team would travel by bus to Randall's Island to practice and play. After his preparation in Groton, outside of Boston, he came west to study at Stanford University, where he was captain of the newbie football team and also played at the university.
He graduated in 1964 with a degree in American Literature and then went overseas to earn his Masters in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University. His first choice was entry into foreign service, so he entered a graduate program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, but was disillusioned and worked for Safeway in the Washington area in 1968, where the grocery chain had many businesses
At various levels of management, he worked in Tulsa, Okla .; Phoenix; and Montreal before ending up at the Oakland headquarters. After his father had given up the chairmanship, in 1979 Peter became chairman and CEO of Safeway.
His first marriage ended in divorce, and in 1982 he met Debby Johnston at a dinner party hosted by Johnson's brother, a friend of Magowan, in Jacksonville. Fla.
"He was smart and charismatic and fun," said Debby Magowan. "He was a true Renaissance man. He could do anything, even cook.
They married in 1982 in Dallas, where Johnston lived. They bought a house in Pacific Heights and moved shortly thereafter.
In 1986, Magoawn helped the food chain avoid a hostile takeover and conduct a leverage buyout, a process in which a company is privately taken primarily with borrowed funds. The agreement forced Safeway to close about half of its business between 1986 and 1988.
Safeway was no longer the largest food retailer in the US due to the cutbacks, but it also enabled the company to repay the debt and focus on its most profitable core.
"We became a smaller company, but we were better led, as a result, better run," Magowan told The Chronicle in 2003.
Safeway went public again in the early 1990s, which was notable for its new Owner Massively Pays Off
Magowan left Safway's daily operation to run the Giants in 1993. His first big step was the signing of Bonds, the son of longtime Giants outfielder Bobby Bonds, for a six-year deal worth $ 43.75 million.
That also annoyed the other teams. Bonds was the best player in the game, and the Giants reached the deal at the baseball winter meetings in Louisville, Kentucky, before the owners of the other teams officially approved the sale of the Giants to Magowan's group.
Bonds spent 15 seasons with the Giants The records of the one-year season and all-time home race were a big triumph on the field. At the same time, Bonds' suspicion of the use of performance-enhancing drugs that were rampant in baseball at that time led to criticisms of Magowan and the Giants in the Mitchell report.
Photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice / SFC