Wendy Selig-Prieb: “I’m Still a Brewers Fan Through and Through”

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Mark Attanasio “has been everything anyone would want in an owner.”

He has embraced Milwaukee, taken the Milwaukee Brewers organization “to the next level,” and made thoughtful, smart business decisions.

That’s the kind of praise a happy fan of the local baseball team might well offer.

In this case, the praise comes from Wendy Selig-Preib, the woman who was president and CEO of the Brewers when the decisions were made in 2004 and 2005 to put the team up for sale and to choose the Los Angeles financial manager as the new owner. 

Selig-Prieb lives in Arizona, is no longer a baseball executive, and is no longer on the very hot seat she found herself on as the top executive of a team with long and dispiriting stream of losing seasons in the 1990s and early 2000s.

During a visit to her hometown, she made a rare public appearance at the Law School, where she graduated in 1988, for an “On the Issues” conversation with Mike Gousha, the school’s Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy.

Upbeat, warm, and gracious even in discussing parts of her career that were acrimonious at the time, Selig-Prieb said she still regards Milwaukee as her hometown, but is happy with her life in Arizona.  She runs a business that sells women’s clothing through trunk shows, does other business consulting, is involved in community and philanthropic work (much of it around women’s issues), and is pleased to be keeping her commitment to adopt a lifestyle in which she regularly  is home after school for her twelve-year-old daughter.

She said the greatest frustration of her thirteen-year career as an executive with the Brewers was how the quality of the team was affected by the economics of baseball, in which small-market teams had much less money to spend on players than large-market teams. “It was not a fun time,” she said.  While that gap remains a major issue, the development of revenue sharing among teams has reduced the disparity. “The economic system is a very different one” now, she said. Selig-Prieb counted her work on revenue-sharing as part of the owners’ bargaining team as one of her major accomplishments.

Other accomplishments she mentioned: Her role in construction of Miller Park, which replaced County Stadium in 2002; the hiring of Doug Melvin, who remains the team’s general manager and whose personnel moves are regarded as a key to the team’s much-improved record in recent years; and the strengthening of the team’s player development system, which brought players such as Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to the team.

Gousha asked her if there would there be a Brewers team in Milwaukee now without Miller Park and the revenue-sharing changes.

“I don’t know how you could ever answer that question yes,” she said.  “Now baseball is here, not only for this generation of baseball fans, but future generations.”

Selig-Prieb said she had no regrets about the sale of the team. “I felt it was the right time and right thing to do,” she said. “I feel it is just as right now as it was then.”

Selig-Prieb remains closely attached to the game — her husband, Laurel Prieb, is an executiveof Major League Baseball, and  her father, Bud Selig, is, of course, the commissioner. But it’s also a matter of simple affection for baseball and for Milwaukee.  Through television and the Internet, she stays up on the team.

“I’m still a Brewers fan through and through,” she said.

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