By Ken Berry
UPDATE: According to the "San Diego Padres MLB Team Report," Thomas Tull has withdrawn his bid to purchase the team. Three bidders reportedly remain for the club, including a group led by former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley that includes Hall of Fame golfer Phil Mickelson. The Foxsports.com website cited a source saying the other two bidders are a businessman from Orange County and a private equity investor from Los Angeles, but declined to identify them further.
Tony Gwynn, the major league baseball stalwart who amassed more than 3,000 hits on the way to the Baseball Hall of Fame, is seeking to acquire an ownership interest in his former team. But there's a potential obstacle in Gwynn's way: He reportedly owes more than $400,000 in back taxes to the IRS.
Gwynn spent his entire career as an outfielder with the San Diego Padres and has strong ties to the San Diego area. He has joined with movie mogul Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Pictures, in an attempt to buy the team from majority owner John Moores. But a local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune (U-T), reported this week that Gwynn had liens for unpaid taxes in 2003, 2007, and 2009. Last year's notice was for $209,156, with a separate one for $227,093 in 2010.
Why do celebrities end up in trouble with the IRS?
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox ‒ personal finance expert, radio and television personality, and New York Times best-selling author - told Inside Edition: "The IRS always goes after celebrities. They're big targets. They can make an example out of them. And frankly, they can collect a lot more money out of them. . . . A lot of celebrities can earn hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars, on a single project. Unfortunately, they don't set aside a lot of money for taxes or savings."
Major League Baseball carefully scrutinizes the financial status of prospective ownership candidates. However, if Gwynn isn't a money partner in the ownership group, his financial background will probably not affect the outcome.
Gwynn's tax attorney, Mitch Dubick, told the U-T that his client has arranged to pay off the tax liability and the issue shouldn't have an impact on his role with the ownership group. "It's being paid off in installments," said Dubick, although he refused to reveal the remaining balance.
During his twenty-year career, Gwynn won the National League batting championship eight times and was selected as an all-star fifteen times. He finished with 3,141 hits. Currently, Gwynn is the baseball coach at San Diego State University. He earns approximately $115,000 a year from that job, in addition to pulling down an estimated $435,000 from promotional activities and affiliations with the Padres. In the final decade of his playing career, Gwynn earned between $2 million and $6 million annually.