Alexandria’s Shawn Reilly has loved being the owner of a Northwoods League franchise, but he and his family decided they can’t keep losing money with the organization as he put the team on the market in hopes of finding a new local owner.
Reilly bought the Beetles for $375,000 from Jill and Jim Wagner before the 2010 season. Today, he is willing to list it for $125,000 to make it affordable for somebody else to buy the franchise, keep it in Alexandria and still turn a profit.
“Our whole goal in selling it is to keep the team with local ownership,” Reilly said from his IBR Realty office on Tuesday morning. “If you take away local control, that really worries me because I want the Beetles to be here.”
Reilly said without a local buyer, the Northwoods League has the right to step in and take back the team if he isn’t able to pay off all his debts by the end of October. From there, anything can happen. Alexandria is the smallest market in the league and the NWL would have the right to search for a new home for the team in the future, choose to run it themselves or find a new buyer.
“We have until about the end of October and then I think the league would step in and take over ownership,” Reilly said. “There’s just no guarantees at that point. The league could keep it here or it could move it somewhere else. We’re the smallest market in the league, it’s just the reality of who we are.”
Reilly said the numbers show a new owner could make a profit with the team if they can come into it debt free. He wasn’t in the position to do that when he bought the team, instead having to take out loans that have made it impossible to break even. Reilly is still two years away from paying off the money that he borrowed and he isn’t able to keep putting money back into the team at the end of every year.
“I think the critical thing is, based on the price we’re selling it for, if you can buy this thing with no debt service, loans or whatever, like we have, it would be profitable immediately,” Reilly said. “When we purchased it, we had debt. We had loans that we took out, and if you get rid of those loans, we would at least break even this year.”
He admits that it was a risky financial decision when he purchased the team, but he says he made it mostly with his heart rather than what made sense financially. Reilly was the general manager for three years prior to taking over ownership. By that point, he felt invested in the organization.
“I don’t like to fail,” he said. “Because on the financial side, you often make emotional decisions, and I think the purchase of this was 80/20 emotional versus financial as far as making any sense to anybody. Maybe 90/10 actually, but the goal was I bought it on potential, and that’s always risky.”
Even so, Reilly said he would probably do it again if given the chance. He has loved running his own team, the people he has met and using the Beetles as a platform to help out within the Alexandria community. That’s why he called his ownership of the Beetles the most rewarding and most disappointing business decision he has ever made.
It’s also why it was so difficult for him and his family to let the team go. His eight-year-old son Colin has grown up around the Beetles at Knute Nelson Field. Reilly felt it was the right time to try and find a new owner who can help make sure they get the opportunity to continue supporting the Beetles for many years to come.
“We’ve also felt we’re responsible for this,” Reilly said. “We’re not going to leave town like some of the other people have in other markets. We live here, we want to stay here. We want the Beetles to stay here. We’re going to do what we need to do to not leave our vendors hanging. It’s our responsibilities so we want to handle it correctly. Part of that is trying to find somebody locally that would kind of take over the mission, the dream and for not a lot of money.”