Rob Manfred, the chief lieutenant to Bud Selig, was elected Thursday as commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Although Selig had hoped the succession would be more of a coronation, a small faction of owners rallied behind Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and deprived Manfred of a first-ballot victory.
Manfred, 55, will become the 10th MLB commissioner, and the first since Selig assumed the role in 1992. Selig is scheduled to retire when his contract expires Jan. 25, 2015.
With 23 votes needed for election, Manfred reportedly got 22 votes on the first ballot and Werner eight. Manfred is believed to have gotten 22 votes on a second ballot and won on the third ballot, by a 30-0 acclamation, according to a person familiar with the process.
Tim Brosnan, baseball’s executive vice president for business and the third candidate presented to the owners, removed himself from consideration before the first vote.
Manfred, the chief operating officer of MLB for the last 11 months, made his name as baseball’s top labor lawyer. He developed a strong working relationship with the players’ union, negotiating a series of collective bargaining agreements that has made MLB the only major North American sport to play the past two decades without a strike or lockout. That labor peace has contributed to the sharp increase in baseball’s annual revenues — from $1 billion at the start of Selig’s tenure to $9 billion today.
Manfred also served as Selig’s point man on negotiations with the union to implement and then toughen baseball’s drug policy, on the 14 suspensions last year from the Biogenesis investigation, and on forging a strategy designed to get former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to sell the team.
Selig all but designated Manfred as heir apparent last September, when he appointed him as COO. For the first time in three years, Selig had designated a clear No. 2 in the commissioner’s office.
However, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf opposed Manfred and led a group of owners — the Angels’ Arte Moreno among them — that settled on Werner as its candidate. The dissension led to the formation of a search committee, politicking among owners that rivaled Congressional deal-making, and the first contested election for commissioner since 1969.