Fred Saigh was born in Springfield, Illinois and went to Bradley University. He got his law degree from Northwestern University in 1926 at age 21. He went to be a successful tax lawyer, investor and corporate lawyer. Although, did get in trouble with the government later in life.
One of Fred Saigh’s early ventures was a company that operated cigarette machines, but that went bankrupt. In the 1940s, he owned prime office buildings in downtown St. Louis. The buildings were two famous landmarks, the Railway Exchange Building, which headquartered The Famous-Barr Co. retail chain, and Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney building.
St. Louis cardinals
At the end of the 1947 baseball season, Saigh got wind that longtime Cardinals owner Sam Breadon wanted to sell. Breadon faced two problems. He was ill with prostate cancer, and he had been unable to find land on which to build a planned new ballpark. The Cardinals had rented Sportsman’s Park from the city’s other major league team, the American League Browns, since 1920. Although they had long since surpassed the Browns as the city’s most popular team, Breadon wanted to build a park of his own. He had set aside $5 million to build a park, and was facing the end of a five-year deadline to build it before having to pay taxes on that money. Saigh persuaded Breadon to sell the Cardinals to him, with the assurance that he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on his $5 million fund. To further put him at ease, Saigh brought in Robert Hannegan as a minority partner. Hannegan was a prominent St. Louis businessman, former United States Postmaster General, and confidante of President Harry Truman. The $4 million deal closed in late 1947.
His partner, Hannegan was in poor health and sold his shares t Saigh. One of the first things he did was gather the other owners together and oust the current commissioner of baseball, Happy Chandler, from his position. Saigh also got the owners interested in local television revenue sharing.
Trouble was soon to follow, in April 1952, he was indicted on federal charges that he had not paid taxes of $49,260 between 1946 and 1949. He pled no contest and was sentenced to prison for 15 months. He served five months at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, leaving in November 1953 when he was given parole for good behavior.
Commissioner Ford Frick put pressure on Saigh to sell the team as requested by the other owners. Bill Veeck, owner of the St. Louis Browns, wanted the Cardinals gone from the city and he sought out investors from out-of-town to make offers to buy the Cardinals and leave St. Louis.
The most promising offer came from a consortium of businessmen in Houston, Texas. The Cardinals owned the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League; under major-league rules of the time, that meant they also held the major-league rights to Houston. The only question was whether Buffalo Stadium could be upgraded to major-league standards.
Saigh was ready to reach an agreement with them with Gussie Busch, president of Anheuser-Busch, appealed to Saigh’s civic pride and offered $3.75 million less to sell the team to his corporation and keep them in St. Louis. He sold them to Busch and this all but assured that the Cardinals would stay in St. Louis.
Saigh resumed a business career and bought large amounts of stock in Anheuser -Busch, becoming the largest stockholder outside of the Busch family. He was critical of Busch and somewhat jealous that Gussie Busch was given credit for saving the team in St. Louis. He felt his gesture of selling for less was hat people should remember.
He died in St. Louis, at the age of 94, worth approximately $500 million.
Saigh had a wife named Eiizabeth, but had no children. He left $70 million to charity in his will, establishing the Fred Saigh Foundation.