Eli Solomon Jacobs (born October 5, 1937) is an American financier and attorney, member of the National Commission for the Review of the National Reconnaissance Office and the former owner of the Baltimore Orioles from 1989 to 1993.
Rise to success
Jacobs was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 5, 1937, and raised in nearby Newton. After graduating from Phillips Academy in Andover, he attended Yale University, where he served as managing editor of the school's Daily News. Once he completed his undergraduate studies in 1959, he served a two-year stint in the United States Army stationed at Fort Holabird in Baltimore, Maryland. Following the military, he returned to Yale, earning a law degree in 1964. His career began immediately at the Wall Street investment banking establishment White Weld & Co., where he became one of its youngest partners by 1968. After his departure from the firm in 1970, he spent more than a decade as a stock market investor and venture capitalist.
During the 1980s, he dove headfirst into the leveraged buyout boom. After establishing his own firm, Manhattan-based E.S. Jacobs & Co., in 1986, he began to build up a vast investment portfolio which included controlling interest in Memorex and Triangle Pacific Corp., a maker of cabinets and wood flooring. His biggest coup, executed in December, 1987, was a $900 million acquisition of Telex Corp., which would be merged with Memorex to form, at the time, the world's second largest manufacturer of computer peripherals. He also served on the board of directors of Times Mirror Co.
Jacobs, along with Larry Lucchino (a holdover from the previous ownership), Sargent Shriver and his eldest son Bobby, announced their purchase of the Baltimore Orioles from the estate of the late Edward Bennett Williams for $70 million on December 6, 1988. The transaction was unanimously approved by the American League (AL) franchise owners just over four months later on April 18, 1989, two weeks into the new baseball season. The owner of 87% of the ballclub, Jacobs became the chairman of the board, with Lucchino managing the organization.
In his 1994 book The Baltimore Orioles: Forty Years of Magic from 33rd Street to Camden Yards, Ted Patterson made the following observation of the new majority owner:
|“||Jacobs was a New Yorker with a flat personality who found it awkward being in the public eye. Winning and losing seemed inconsequential. He used the Orioles as a vehicle to entertain and impress high rollers in government, business, and entertainment.||”|
In the first year of the Jacobs regime, the Orioles nearly shocked the baseball world by transforming itself from the worst team in Major League Baseball with a 54–107 record in 1988 to one that fell short of winning the AL Eastern Division title by two games. Unfortunately for the franchise, the tragic neglect of its scouting department and farm system, which actually began under Williams, would continue as Jacobs was reluctant to spend any money on improving the operations. On the field, the team seemed to revolve around Cal Ripken, Jr. and not much else. The only positive was the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in April, 1992 creating new revenue streams for the Orioles.
Even before the gates to Camden Yards opened for business, Jacobs found his investment empire drowning in debt. The first signs of trouble surfaced in 1991 when Jacobs attempted to sell the Orioles for $200 million. He failed to attract any buyers, even after lowering his price to $160 million.
His heavily leveraged financial situation collapsed in 1992. After Memorex Telex emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization in February, his 35% interest was wiped out. The restructuring of Triangle Pacific forced him to surrender most of his 97% stake to bondholders in November. In between, he was sued by four lending establishments (Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co. of Baltimore, Manufacturers & Traders Trust Co., The Berkshire Bank of New York City and Banca Commerciale Italiana of Milan) for defaulting on outstanding loans totaling about $36.4 million. Even his $2 million home in Owings Mills, Maryland was seized when he failed to make mortgage payments.
When seven banks filed petitions to force him into bankruptcy in March 1993, Jacobs had to relinquish the Orioles. At an auction held in bankruptcy court in New York on August 2, 1993, the ballclub was sold for $173 million to a group of Baltimore investors led by Peter Angelos. The sale was unanimously approved by the AL club owners two months later on October 4.
Affiliated with the Republican Party, Jacobs is a Washington insider who has served on various national security and military intelligence committees for the federal government. He was a member of the General Advisory Committee of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Reagan Administration. In January, 2000, he was appointed by then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to his current role on the National Commission for the Review of the National Reconnaissance Office.
- Frank, Peter H. & Rosenthal, David. "Orioles are sold: $70 million; Jacobs is quiet deal-maker," The Baltimore Sun, Wednesday, December 7, 1988.
- Baltimore Orioles 1990 Media Guide.