He Sold His Team, Then Left 'Unforgettable Goodbye Gift'

23 workers with Triple-A Iowa Cubs were given $2K for each year of service
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2022 7:18 AM CST
Updated Jan 8, 2022 3:50 PM CST
He Sold His Team, Then Left 'Unforgettable Goodbye Gift'
Principal Park, home to the Iowa Cubs, is seen June 25, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Nearly two dozen employees of a minor league baseball team received an unexpected holiday bonus this year. The recent sale of the Iowa Cubs, the Triple-A affiliate for the Chicago Cubs, meant that Michael Gartner's final day as owner of the team was last Tuesday. That's the day he gathered all 23 full-time workers together at Principal Park in Des Moines for a final meeting in which they'd get new business cards. But that's not exactly what was inside the envelopes they were handed: Instead, as employees peeked inside, they found what Yahoo Sports calls an "unforgettable goodbye gift."

Gartner, 83—a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former chief of NBC News who'd owned the Iowa Cubs for more than two decades—had given to employees in marketing, accounting, maintenance and other departments checks equal to $2,000 for each year of service, or about $600,000 in total for the whole group. The worker who'd been there the longest received a whopping $70,000. "My jaw dropped," Alex Cohen, the team's radio broadcaster, tells the New York Times, adding that the checks were a "life-changing gesture" for many.

The surprise checks were a cut of the profits of the team's sale to Endeavor, a sports and entertainment firm based in Beverly Hills, Calif., that's also acquiring at least eight other minor league clubs. Scott Sailor, the team's communications director, received a windfall of $46,000 and said it wasn't a shock that Gartner—a fixture at the ballpark who'd gone out of his way to make sure no one was laid off during the pandemic—came up with such a thing. "It was totally within character," Sailor tells the Des Moines Register. "That's the kind of guy he is." For his part, Gartner simply felt it was the right thing to do. "They're really nice people, good people, and they deserve to share in proceeds from the sale," he tells the paper. (More uplifting news stories.)

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