Daughter of Joan Kroc : Linda Smith Plans to Divorce Padres’ Boss

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Times Staff Writer

Linda Smith, the daughter of multimillionaire San Diego Padres owner Joan B. Kroc, said Wednesday that she is filing for divorce from Ballard Smith, her husband of more than 16 years and Padres team president

The founder of a local organization fighting for nuclear disarmament, Linda Smith said the split was “difficult but amicable” and would have “no effect whatsoever” on her husband’s position with the baseball franchise.

“We tried, both of us, our very best to save the marriage, and we are parting as friends and as very good loving parents to our four daughters,” Linda Smith, 39, said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “(Divorce) can happen at any time, to anybody. We had differences. It was just a matter of, of life, I guess.”


Ballard Smith, a former prosecutor in Pennsylvania who assumed his job as president of the Padres in 1979, called the divorce a “private matter” and said his immediate future plans are to “spend a lot of time with my daughters, who are upset about this.”

“This hasn’t exactly been the greatest day of my life,” said Smith, 40. “But like everything else, you just wade through it . . . My wife initiated this, so I don’t really want to go into the situation. But we are on good terms.”

The couple declined to discuss financial aspects of the divorce. And by late Wednesday, a petition for dissolution had not yet been filed in San Diego Superior Court. Linda Smith’s attorney, Gary Pike, could not be reached for comment.

Kroc also was unavailable for comment on what effect the divorce would have on Smith’s post as Padres president. In November, Kroc placed her National League franchise--which has made money only twice in its 18-year history--up for sale, reportedly for $50 million.

At one point, Smith was rumored to be heading a local group that was interested in purchasing the ball club. But the team president dismissed that idea Wednesday and said he would be ready to move on and “explore new opportunities” once the Padres are sold and his tenure with the club ends.

“I have no interest in buying the Padres,” Smith said. “I’m interested in becoming a private citizen and doing a lot of different things.”


News of the Smiths’ intention to divorce comes a little over a year after a period of stormy relations between Kroc and her aggressive--some would say headstrong--son-in-law.

In December, 1985, the team owner and her son-in-law were at loggerheads for a spell over former Padres Manager Dick Williams. Smith, unbeknownst to Kroc, apparently attempted to persuade Williams to resign. When Kroc read about the deal in the newspaper, she was furious and reportedly vowed that “heads could roll” in the front office.

After a meeting at Kroc’s La Jolla home, all parties to the dispute shook hands and made up. But rumors persisted that relations between Smith and his mother-in-law were not altogether agreeable. Smith denied that suggestion Wednesday.

“That is simply not the case,” he said. “In fact, I will be escorting her to a fund-raiser for Gary Hart in the near future . . . This has absolutely no connection” (with the divorce).

Ballard Smith left San Diego late Wednesday for Chicago, where he was to attend a meeting of the McDonald’s Corp. board of directors, on which he sits.

Linda Smith, meanwhile, said she would be moving soon to another home in La Jolla, about two miles from the house she now shares with Ballard Smith. The couple’s daughters--Allison, Amy, Amanda and Holly, ranging in age from 7 to 14--will have “two primary residences,” she said.


Smith plans to continue her work as president of Mothers Embracing Nuclear Disarmament (MEND), a group founded in 1985 that has brought new clout and publicity to San Diego’s peace movement. Smith, who was moved to join the cause for disarmament while standing before the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, once said the group’s goal is “to inform and empower people to save mankind.”

Linda Smith, an only child, is heir apparent to the Kroc family fortune. Kroc, also a patron of the anti-nuclear movement, is the widow of McDonald’s restaurants founder Ray Kroc and a major stockholder in the fast-food chain. In October, she appeared on Fortune Magazine’s list of the nation’s 400 wealthiest citizens, with her net worth estimated at $640 million.

In addition to his post with the Padres, Ballard Smith also has business interests in two radio stations in Salt Lake City, concessions at the San Diego Sports Arena and a catering company.