The importance of being a valued partner is something Jeff Savage learned long ago. His father, Art Savage, as founding president and CEO of the San Jose Sharks, knew that his new business venture and the fledgling team would only be as successful as the impact they had on their community. He set up business partnerships and established a foundation that, over the years, distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community.
In 1998, Art purchased a minor league baseball franchise and moved the team from Vancouver in 2000, bringing his wife and business expertise to Sacramento. With the birth of the River Cats, Jeff felt his childhood ambitions of wanting to be a sports executive just like his father. So when the opportunity presented itself, and he had a few years of San Francisco finance industry work under his belt, Jeff and his family made the move to Sacramento. Art made his intentions clear – the team was not to be sold. “My mother tells the story of my dad telling her, ‘I don’t want you selling the team; it’s security for the kids,” added Jeff.
“Growing up in the Bay Area, I never thought about living anywhere else. Once we made the move to Sacramento, we were so glad we did. This is such a welcoming community,”Jeff commented.
When Savage senior passed away in 2009, Jeff was ready to fulfill his father’s wishes and ultimately assumed the role of president. “I’ve taken over that notion, this is a family thing. Are we willing to sell? No. We have other motivations besides financials. We want to be here for the long haul,” says Jeff.
He also didn’t hesitate to carry on the philanthropic lessons passed on from his father. River Cats management meets at the beginning of the calendar year to review the franchise’s priorities and establish strategies that align business goals with the family’s philanthropy philosophy. Majority owner Susan, Jeff’s mother, regularly reviews applications from local nonprofits and makes recommendations.
Over the nearly 20 years since the family essentially put West Sac on the map, the area has seen significant change. “Raley Field the first attraction in the bridge district and the new development is exciting. The landscape is changing and maturing along the riverfront, putting more eyes on the team, bringing more things to do,” remarked Jeff.
The family recently entered into a sponsorship agreement with Sutter Health, a local company that shares their passion for community. Once the stadium is renamed to Sutter Health Park in 2020, the two businesses will partner to implement programs that focus on youth wellness, both physical and mental.
As far as long-term plans to keep the team in the family, Jeff says his kids are still quite young but admits he is “dropping [not so] subtle hints”.