John Angelos Got Everything He Wanted
11:13 AM EST on January 31, 2024
Baltimore Orioles chairman and controlling figurehead John Angelos, anointed son of longtime owner Peter Angelos, has reached an agreement to sell the team to a group led by billionaire investor David Rubenstein, for $1.72 billion. The Angelos family has owned the Orioles franchise since 1993, when Peter and a group of investor partners purchased the team for $173 million. For most of that time the Orioles have been fodder in the loaded AL East, occasionally frisky but more often hopeless and doomed. The Orioles are now on the rise, and with an ultra-cheap team and a brand-new lease deal at Camden Yards, a family of heirs is ready to finally cash out the patriarch's enormously successful investment.
It's painful to hand anything to sleazy nepo-billionaire John Angelos, to whom everything in life has been handed, most of it on a silver platter, but unfortunately, you've got to hand it to him on this one: If his design all along was to arrive at this moment, he played it out just about perfectly. Angelos gutted the Orioles and sandbagged their big-league team for years, in order to spend as little as possible on baseball and to stock up the team's farm system with cheap blue-chip prospects. Even as that project began to send elite young players to the majors and the team's on-field fortunes turned, Angelos and GM Mike Elias kept the payroll disgracefully low and declined opportunities to fortify their roster with capable veterans, always behind a bunch of ridiculous moaning about the challenges of competing in a small market. The young Orioles won 101 games last season and took the top spot in the American League, but were then swept away in a disappointing ALDS. And still the team has refused to spend: So far this winter the Orioles have signed one (1) free agent, a one-year deal with 35-year-old closer Craig Kimbrel. Angelos is now handing to Rubenstein a 101-win team with the second-lowest 26-man payroll in the entire league, ahead of only the basically fictional Las Vegas Athletics.
That's on the baseball side. Angelos also recently closed on a new lease at Camden Yards, one that keeps the Orioles at their celebrated ballpark for a further 30 years. That too is a team-favoring setup: The deal allows the Orioles to cut the length of their lease in half if, by December 2027, Maryland has not agreed to grant development rights to the Orioles for the acres of publicly owned land surrounding the stadium. The argument over ground lease rights stalled and knotted negotiations for years; as Angelos was quick to announce to just about anyone with whom he made even a moment's eye contact, his top priority in this deal was to gain control over the development of the neighborhood around the stadium, something he referred to as an "existential" concern. To demonstrate what he had in mind, Angelos took Maryland Governor Wes Moore to unincorporated Cumberland, Georgia, in March 2023, to tour the suburban home of the Atlanta Braves, which was built at the center of a new mixed-use development with a huge investment of public funding. Angelos is now also handing to Rubenstein eventual control over several city blocks of prime redevelopment.
It took a little bit of bald-faced lying for this lease deal to finally come together. Bloomberg reported on Dec. 7 that Angelos and Rubenstein were discussing a sale of the team, after Rubenstein kicked around the idea of purchasing the Washington Nationals. This was a problem, as Angelos was still deep in negotiations on the Camden Yards lease; according to the Wall Street Journal, state lawmakers bristled at the idea of continuing to bargain with Angelos if the team's ownership was "in flux." Angelos reportedly had to make a frantic call to Moore to assure him, falsely, that the Orioles were not for sale; the Journal, citing sources, then described the prospects of a sale of the Orioles at any point prior to Peter Angelos's death as "extremely unlikely." Three weeks later, and just two weeks shy of the formal expiration of the team's lease at Camden Yards, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved the new deal; now, just over one month later, Angelos has reached an agreement to sell the team to Rubenstein. Amazing how quickly that deal came together.
Orioles fans will not miss John Angelos, a disingenuous, bullying creep who managed through pride and stupidity to blemish what otherwise has been an enjoyable rise from the dead for their baseball team, no matter how cynically engineered. Nor will they miss the bitter drama swirling around the Angelos clan in the years since the 94-year-old family patriarch ceded control of the team. Rubenstein, a Baltimore native and a big sentimental baseball fan who has spoken openly for years about his interest in purchasing the Orioles, made his fortune in private equity after pivoting away from law and public policy. Fortunately for Orioles fans, we have seen across many industries and sectors that it is always great for stability and quality when private equity gets involved.