Ex-Padres owner John Moores, long a lurker around the margins of San Diego State University's attempts to take control of the city-owned acreage formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium, has finally outed himself.
On November 2, four days before the election that will decide the outcome of the university's battle with an investor group known as SoccerCity for development rights to the property, Moores personally produced $98,500 for Friends of SDSU, the political committee waging a ballot campaign on behalf of the school's takeover of the land.
The same day, disclosure filings show, Kara M. Kratzer, listed as a Rancho Santa Fe homemaker, came up with the same. Her husband John Kratzer is CEO of Moores-owned JMI Realty. Since August 2, records show JMI, hired by SDSU as a consultant to the project, has given a total of $122,000 to the pro-SDSU committee.
Moores has a controversial history as an SDSU benefactor, having cultivated university officials as far back as ex-president Steve Weber and his second in command, then-SDSU vice-president Sally Roush, with sizable dollops of cash for the school's athletic programs.
Two decades ago, in December 1997, Weber first approached Moores with a proposal for SDSU to share ownership of a new Padres stadium and ancillary real estate development, similar in outline to that currently proposed by the university.
"This letter is to introduce the concept of a public/private partnership, which would enable the financing and constructing of a baseball stadium for the San Diego Padres," Weber wrote Moores. "The partnership would be between you and San Diego State University, with whom you have obviously established a history of philanthropy."
Weber plied Moores with the notion of leveraging his charity for personal financial advantage.
"The partnership also assumes that whatever personal stake you intend to contribute to the baseball stadium is significantly stretched by the multiple tax advantages associated with a charitable contribution.
"With this contribution, and assuming naming-rights revenue and sufficient operating income, SDSU would seek to purchase a site and secure construction financing either as a governmental agency, through one of our existing nonprofit corporations, or through a newly established nonprofit."
To avoid detailed scrutiny of the arrangement, Weber argued for avoiding any say in the matter by the city's electorate. "Under such a scenario, a public vote would not be required. The stadium would be leased back to the Padres, and the site would be available for joint use for our educational programs."
No deal materialized, and a year later with the assistance of then-city manager Jack McGrory, mayor Susan Golding, and Union-Tribune owner Helen Copley, Moores mounted a successful 1998 ballot bid to build a downtown ballpark with public money.
"The city and its redevelopment arm, the Centre City Development Corp., will contribute $275 million to the project, largely through the issuance of bonds," Copley's Union-Tribune reported a week before the November election on the project.
"The bonds will be paid off with hotel-room taxes and new property taxes created by the project," the paper asserted. By 2015, however, city taxpayers found themselves on the hook for paying down the enormous debt, plus interest.
Flash forward to April 2016.
The Chargers having forsaken Qualcomm Stadium Moores and his JMI Realty launched another attempt to latch on to the aging venue's real estate.
"The JMI team (represented by President John Kratzer and Steve Peace), working in concert with Steve Black of Cisterra Development, another prominent San Diego developer (and SDSU alumni), will unveil their proposal to develop the Qualcomm Stadium site into a civic gem that all SDSU alumni and San Diego County residents will claim proudly," read the invitation JMI's presentation held at SDSU's Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate.
Moores himself, caught up in the twin scandals of the city council's Valerie Stallings influence-peddling affair and financial shenanigans at his fraud-tainted Peregrine Systems, along with a messy divorce battle, was no longer being publicly mentioned by the university as a partner in the future Mission Valley deal.
“Look, take my name off stuff. I don’t want my name used in affiliation with the university if it’s going to be a lightning rod for controversy,” then–Padres vice chairman Bob Vizas quoted Moores as saying in October 2002 after a student newspaper columnist questioned the propriety of the mega-millionaire’s $30 million of SDSU donations.
“A university spokesman noted that a plaque honoring the Mooreses on the school's baseball stadium, along with several plaques naming other benefactors, had recently been removed for cleaning,” the L.A. Times reported.
“Spokesman Jack Beresford said he did not know when or whether they would be replaced.”