(Nov. 3) A group of business owners led by Robert Castellini, chairman and chief executive officer of Wilder, Ky.-based produce distributor Castellini Co., plans to buy controlling interest in the Cincinnati Reds Major League Baseball team.

The Cincinnati Reds announced the move Nov. 2 on the team’s Web site.

The other members of the purchasing group, according to www.cincinnatireds.mlb.com, are Thomas L. Williams, 48, and William J. Williams Jr., 62, president and chairman, respectively, of Cincinnati-based North American Properties.

It’s not the first time the Reds have been linked to the produce industry. Castellini would replace Carl H. Lindner — former owner of Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International— as the team’s chief executive officer.

Castellini, 64, could not be reached for comment. The Reds’ Web site said members of the potential ownership group were precluded from commenting on the deal until it was approved by Major League Baseball.

Lindner, George L. Strike and William J. Reik Jr., were expected to retain an interest in the team.

“Carl has meant so much to the Reds and the city of Cincinnati,” Castellini said in a news release. “As such, we are thrilled that he has agreed to continue his association with the club as a significant partner in our ownership group. I look forward to finalizing the agreement and submitting our group for MLB approval in the very near future as we are very excited about this opportunity and are eager to get started on the work ahead.”

Castellini is member of the St. Louis Cardinals’ ownership group headed by Cincinnatian Bill DeWitt. The two men previously invested in the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Castellini and the Williams brothers will be forced to relinquish their minority shares in the Cardinals in order to purchase the Reds. The Williams brothers’ father and uncle were owners of the Reds from 1966-84. During that time, the “Big Red Machine” won four National League pennants and two World Series championships in the 1970s. The Reds, however, have not had a winning season since 2000.

In March, minority owners Louise Nippert, Strike and Great American Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Gannett Co., Inc., put 51.5% of the team’s shares of the market. The Enquirer — which is owned by Gannett —reported that the Castellini group could control as much as 80% of the team. The Reds said in a press release that “the purchase price of the interests sold will be based on an enterprise value of the club of approximately $270 million.”

The deal must be approved by other MLB owners. The owners’ next quarterly meeting wasn’t scheduled until January, but a special vote could happen before that.

According to The Enquirer, Castellini Co. ranks as the fourth-largest privately held company in the Cincinnati metro area with 2004 revenues of $752 million. Castellini’s operations include Club Chef, Covington, Ky.; Crosset Co., Independence, Ky.; Grant County Foods, Dry Ridge, Ky.; C.L. Frank Distributors Wholesale Fruit and Vegetables, Henderson, Ky.; and RWI Transportation LLC, Wilder, Ky.