In recent months, Dee described the renovation as crucial to the team’s finances, given lackluster season-ticket sales and some of the worst attendance figures in the NFL. Financial information released as part of the stadium push showed Ross pumping $100 million into the franchise, which Forbes estimates has one of the highest debt loads in the NFL.
Two people involved in the team’s stadium campaign said Wednesday they understood Dee’s job might be in jeopardy if the plan didn’t win approval. “He basically said: ‘Guys, if we don’t solve this problem, I’m gone,’ ” one campaign aide recalled.
In a statement, Ross thanked Dee for his leadership and wished him well with the Padres. “Under Mike, we have broadened our role in the community, improved our technology footprint within the organization and enhanced our customer service to our fans,” Ross said. The Dolphins have hired a New Jersey head-hunting firm to find Dee’s replacement.
On Wednesday, Dee said Ross released him from his contract with the Dolphins and that the defeated stadium campaign was not a factor in his departure. “This was a decision that was mine and one I was excited about,” Dee said. “Steve was terrific in allowing me to follow my dreams.”
In his Twitter feed, Dee posted: “It’s not easy to make this move at such an exciting time for the franchise, but I could not turn down this incredible opportunity to return my roots.
“Despite my new role, I will always be a member of Dolfan Nation… A big thank you to [Dolphins owner] Steve Ross + So. Fla. for four great years.”
Dee comes to San Diego after ownership parted ways with former CEO Tom Garfinkle over what Padres chairman Ron Fowler described Wednesday as a lack of “unanimity on how to grow the team.”
The Padres are struggling, with one of the worst attendance records in baseball (and only four spots above the Miami Marlins) and a losing record. But Dee praised San Diego as a small community with reserves of loyalty for a team that had won a pennant when he was last there.
“The Padres are such a unifying force then, and they are today,” he said. “Obviously you’ve got to win, and we’re going to be all about that.”