A former editor of The Des Moines Register and a former president of NBC News, Mr. Gartner won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for editorial writing at The Daily Tribune of Ames, Iowa. Two years later, he bought the Iowa Cubs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, and became a fixture in the front office and in his usual seat behind home plate.
In 2020, when the minor league baseball season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Gartner kept every full-time employee on the payroll, with benefits, Mr. Sailor said.
“The surprise was not that he was generous because that’s the way he’s been,” said Randy Wehofer, the team’s vice president and assistant general manager, who joined the club in 2008.
“We’ve had above-standard health insurance and 401(k) contributions, and we’ve always been the organization that people looked at and said, ‘Gee, I wish everybody did that,’” Mr. Wehofer said. “That’s always been his way, as long as I’ve been part of the organization.”
Last month, however, the Cubs announced that the team had entered into an agreement to become a part of Diamond Baseball Holdings, a subsidiary of Endeavor, a global sports and entertainment company based in Beverly Hills, Calif. The sale signaled the end of Mr. Gartner’s local ownership.
In a list of the 30 most valuable minor league baseball teams in 2016, Forbes placed the Iowa Cubs at No. 22, and estimated the team’s value at $30 million. Mr. Gartner declined to disclose the sale price.
He said he had felt less secure owning the team since 2019, when Major League Baseball proposed a major restructuring of the lower level of the minor leagues. And at 83, he said, “I just decided it was time.”