By Sam Bush

John Middleton seems like nice enough guy, and as owner of the Phillies he seems willing to open up the team’s wallet to spend, as he did on Bryce Harper and others.

But, in the time of economic meltdown, when Americans are unemployed by the millions and dying by the hundreds of thousands, doesn’t he seem out of touch as his business struggles to deal with COVID-19?

I mean, if you gave him a top hat and a monocle he could be in Monopoly!

Here’s the economic story of the Phillies, as described by The Athletic:

Estimated franchise value: $2 billion

Last purchased price/year sold: $30 million, 1981

Notable previous owners/managing partners/primary stakeholders: Charles Taft (1905-1913), William Baker (1913-1930), Robert Carpenter Jr. (1943-1972), Robert Carpenter III (1972-1981), Bill Giles (1981-1997), David Montgomery (1997-2014)

Current MLB-designated control person: John Middleton

Source of wealth: Middleton’s great-great-grandfather founded John Middleton Inc., a small tobacco shop in Philadelphia, in 1856. The shop evolved into one of the nation’s leading makers of cigars, and Middleton bought out the rest of his family for control of the family business for about $200 million in 2003. He sold the whole thing to Altria for $2.9 billion in 2007. Middleton’s father, Herb, bought a 15 percent stake in the Phillies for $18 million in 1993; John Middleton has slowly increased that holding, and he now owns just shy of a majority stake in the club. (The Buck family owns a similar stake in the team.)

In the news: Middleton, with an estimated net worth of $3.3 billion, supplanted the late David Montgomery as the control person in 2016, and he made headlines in the 2018-2019 offseason by stating he would spend “stupid money” to upgrade the roster. (The Phillies went on to sign Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen and trade for Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto.) In 2018, Middleton reached a $22 million settlement with his sister, Anna, after she accused him of fraud and deception when he bought the family out of the tobacco company in 2003. In 2013, Middleton pledged $30 million to Project HOME, which assists the homeless in the Philly area.

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