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The Peter Principles (Ch. 8) – That time Peter Angelos tried to buy the Washington Redskins

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 8 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

8. That time Peter Angelos tried to buy the Washington Redskins

“Anyone interested in purchasing a sports franchise would have to be interested in buying the Redskins. It’s a storied franchise, in the nation’s capital – it’s one of the premier franchises in the NFL, and that automatically would make it attractive.”

– Peter Angelos to The Sun 1998

 

 

PETER G. ANGELOS WAS FASCINATED WITH more than just baseball at the end of the disappointing 1998 season. In November, when he was jockeying with Wren for control of the free agency situation, Angelos was also once again moonlighting in areas where he could exert his massive wealth and influence to boost his ego and status.

With the Baltimore Ravens of Ted Marchibroda mired in their third straight losing season since coming to Baltimore and being led by veteran quarterback Jim Harbaugh, Angelos talked openly in the media about still wanting an NFL franchise. And with a quarter of his Orioles fanbase – remember they were never to be referred to as the Baltimore Orioles, just “The Orioles” – coming from the Washington, D.C. area, Angelos thought it prudent and profitable to become a suitor for the true love of the nation’s capital – the Washington Redskins.

On Halloween 1998, Angelos threw his name into the media circus as a bidder for the team that was mired in estate debts left from the death of longtime owner Jack Kent Cooke in April 1997. Angelos had two major hurdles to clear: the NFL desperately wanted the family of Cooke to retain control, and the football owners made it clear they didn’t want cross-ownership issues with Major League Baseball, especially in a different local market.

Of course, that didn’t deter Angelos. The MLB baseball owners didn’t want him to be a part of their little club but he pushed his way in during a bankruptcy auction in 1993. The rules of the NFL owners were pliable, Angelos insisted.

Asked by Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post, if he would relinquish control of the Orioles to own the Redskins, Angelos said: “No, I would not. But I don’t think that question is even applicable. The rule states that in order to own a team in another sport, you have to be within the same market area as the football franchise.”

Angelos was essentially saying that Baltimore and Washington were the same market, a tune he would continue to hum years later when Major League Baseball would seek to put a team in the District of Columbia. During the summer of 1998, speculation suggested that the Redskins would fetch at least $400 million and perhaps as much as $500 million if the spending got aggressive amongst billionaires who would want an NFL membership. “Anyone interested in purchasing a sports franchise would have to be interested in buying the Redskins.” Angelos added. “It’s a storied franchise, in the nation’s capital – it’s one of the premier franchises in the NFL, and that automatically would make it attractive.”

Of course, in Baltimore to mention the word “Redskins” is akin to civic heresy amongst many longtime football fans who grew up on the Colts and hated anything burgundy and gold. The Orioles got plenty of pushback from Baltimoreans over the years as the team wooed D.C. baseball fans. After the Colts departed the Charm City, the subject of “market” was a source of major civic consternation from 1984 through 1995 when Redskins games were shown as “local” games on Sunday NFL viewing, despite Baltimore’s disdain

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 1): So, just how did Angelos become ‘King’ of Baltimore baseball?

Posted on 03 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 1 of future book “The Peter Principles” that I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia. I have released the first three chapters of the book, which chronicles the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. I think you’ll find much of this already-reported information to be illuminating.)

Chapter 2 is available here.

Chapter 3 is available here.

Chapter 12 is available here.

 

 

IT WAS HOT AS HADES in that lower Manhattan federal courtroom. Jam-packed with bidders, curiosity seekers and baseball fans, the Baltimore Orioles franchise was up for grabs on August 2, 1993, and the bidding was as steamy as the air in the room once the price began to rapidly accelerate into the stratosphere.

The fact that there was any bidding at all was somewhat surprising to Peter G. Angelos, a Baltimore attorney who had begun a power play five months earlier to purchase the Major League Baseball franchise that was being sold off via an auction nearly 200 miles away from its home on the Chesapeake Bay. In the hours leading up to the auction, Angelos managed to turn his sole competitor from a previous suspended bid for the team during June into a partner. William DeWitt Jr., a Cincinnati native whose father once owned the St. Louis Browns in the 1940s and a minority investor in the Texas Rangers, joined Angelos’ celebrity-led local group from Maryland just hours before the bidding was to begin in the sweltering Custom House. DeWitt was promised a role in the operations and management of the club.

It was an amazing coup for Angelos to pull DeWitt from being a worthy, legitimate competitor into a teammate that morning, after convincing him that he’d be involved and an influential part of the eventual winning group. It was shocking that DeWitt had pulled out because several times over the previous eight months, he was convinced that he was already the winning bidder and new owner of the Orioles.

In February 1993, after six months of lengthy, arduous negotiations on a fair price, DeWitt had entered into a deal with Orioles majority owner Eli Jacobs to buy the team for $141.3 million. Jacobs, who was in his final days of semi-liquidity and quietly on the verge of bankruptcy, didn’t have the legal authority to close the deal with DeWitt once the banks seized his assets in March. Instead, the Orioles wound up at auction five months later and suddenly Angelos – with DeWitt now shockingly a member of his ownership team – believed he would emerge victorious without breaking a sweat in the summer heat of The Big Apple.

But that afternoon, after entering the courtroom in what he believed would be a rubber-stamped win, instead he found himself embroiled in a bidding war with a stranger he never strongly considered to being a worthy foil in the fray.

Jeffrey Loria, a New York art dealer and Triple-A baseball team owner, wanted badly to be a Major League Baseball owner. Baltimore native and former NFL player Jean Fugett represented a group led by TLC Beatrice, which featured a rare minority bid for an MLB franchise on that day in New York. One bidder, Doug Jemal of Nobody Beats The Wiz electronics stores, had early interest but bowed out before the steamy auction.

That August day, the bidding began at $151.25 million, which included a “stalking fee” of $1.7 million which was originally awarded to DeWitt’s team because of his vast due diligence and legal work done months earlier when he thought he had won a deal to secure the Orioles in the spring.

George Stamas, who represented Angelos’ group during the bidding process, opened the bidding at $153 million, which was seen as a good faith gesture from the combined bid with DeWitt, which could’ve been perceived as artificially deflating the sale price by judge Cornelius Blackshear. Loria, who was a stranger to the Angelos group, immediately raised it by $100,000. Stamas barked out, “One million more – $154.1!”

And for the next 30 minutes, the bids drew north from the $150 millions into the $160s. With every bid, Loria would raise by $100,000. Stamas, on behalf of Angelos, raised it by $1 million at a time. After 13 rounds of back and forth money, Angelos had the leading bid $170 million. Fugett, who had been completely silent during the auction, asked the judge for a recess.

The request was granted and the judge headed to his chambers.

And, suddenly, it got even hotter in a blazing courtroom on a sweltering day in The Big

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Dear Peter G. Angelos: Time will not dim the awfulness of your deeds

Posted on 02 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

This is the first in a long series of #DearOrioles letters to various members of the Baltimore Orioles. I will be writing them all summer in anticipation of the many changes and key decisions that are coming for the franchise’s ownership and leadership.

You can read my #DearOrioles prologue here.

On August 3, we’ll be celebrating 20 years of sports radio and media at WNST.net & AM 1570. I’m still waiting for the Orioles to win and to be kind.

So are you…

 

Dear Pete:

It’s been a while since you last ran from me. I know you didn’t like bumping into me – or most Baltimore Orioles fans, really – so much over the years but it’s not like I’ve really sought you out much lately.

The last time we exchanged a glance was back in the summer of 2014 – you were two blocks from my home. You were coming in the side door of the Hyatt Regency at the Inner Harbor and looking for any way possible to avoid me, along with my then-bald wife and Peter Schmuck. You caught a glimpse of the three of us and quickly disappeared behind a black curtain with a lot of security guys in suits with little earpieces.

Ninety minutes later, Rob Manfred emerged as the new Commissioner of Major League Baseball. And much like the rest of your tenure, you were nowhere to be found. Poof! Right in the middle of downtown Baltimore, you evaporated – like a vapor.

That’s been the eternal story of your ownership: plenty of questions, never any answers and a trail of smoke where the fans never find the fire until the team is 40 games under .500 again in a season of historic disgrace in a long trail of disgraces.

I know you’ve had some time down lately and there was a time when some in the family believed you were permanently moving away from the team and law firm but there’s been some rumblings from some mutual friends that you’ve been feeling better lately and might even be more involved than most think during this most tender of times in your long legacy of losing on the field and printing money behind the scenes.

Someone said recently that you were like “a Phoenix rising from the ashes!”

I hope someone in your department is up for this next challenge of building a baseball franchise all over again.

Most Orioles fans believe July 2018 is the most important of times because it will determine the future.

Oh, don’t worry: I’m not like Mark McGuire.

I AM DEFINITELY here to talk about the past – but only in how it relates to the future.

I know you’ve been trying to get rid of me for two decades – ever since that night in March 1997 when Frank Sliwka set up that lengthy chat over a few drinks at The Barn and you lied a lot about a little bit of everything – including being “a very available individual” – but I’m still here.

I’m still talking, researching, writing, opining, listening, learning and growing entering my 50th year on earth and 27th with the ears and eyes of Baltimore sports fans. And despite your pleas and the ignorance and insolence of your employees, who have been quite joyous in fulfilling your will and wish to punish me and treat me like another “very unimportant Baltimore baseball fan” – I still love baseball.

I still want to believe that one day – when you’re long gone and I’m still here – that I’ll feel welcomed at Camden Yards by the Baltimore Orioles franchise cheering for the team I loved as a kid and devoted my entire professional life to covering with accuracy, honesty and intelligent insights even when the truth didn’t serve your needs.

Maybe? Maybe not…

Time will tell.

I really have no idea how The Peter Principles are going to end. That’s why I’m writing to you today. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here watching Orioles baseball.

Despite all of the ridiculous awfulness you’ve presided over with your baseball team – and my life, my company and my credentials and fair access to do the job I’ve done since I was a 15-year old kid – I still care.

There are days when I’m ashamed to admit that, because it is shameful – the amount of time, money and thought I’ve put into the Baltimore Orioles during my first half century on the planet.

I would’ve loved to have been penning the 25th anniversary story in the summer of 2018 about your magnanimous tenure as a steward of the Baltimore Orioles. I would love to write tomes about you retaining Larry Lucchino back in 1993, hiring Pat Gillick and Davey Johnson for a generation that saw five World Series titles and parades down Pratt Street and two generations of great stars like Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina, Nick Markakis, Mark Teixeira, Adam Jones and Manny Machado we’ve had here in Baltimore. And about the way you welcomed legends like Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken into leadership positions with the organization and community. And how you cultivated and earned the Washington, D.C. market with a solid, burgeoning regional franchise like the ones in Boston and St. Louis that used their regional sports networks and media to dominate the baseball landscape in six states with a national footprint of a powerful and respected brand that competes annually with wise long-term organizational decisions, strong ownership and a clear and transparent communication with its fan base.

But that’s not going to be your legacy for anyone who has been paying attention.

I’ve written most of your story in The Peter Principles – at least through the time when you won your war with your MLB partners and got all of the free MASN money in 2006 that changed every part of accountability and profitability for your family. Every crazy story and word I wrote is true – even your many lies, deceptions and bizarre tales of power, money, ego, ineptitude, pettiness and a life lived with very little emotional intelligence in regard to the Orioles and what it represented in the hearts and spirit of the city and the region.

I really wish you had been the “very available individual” you said you were on that night at The Barn. I really don’t have much to judge you on personally beyond that night, your public words and all of the deeds of your organization toward the community and toward me. It all speaks for itself. There are many things said to me and done to me personally and

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