The list of potential new owners of the Baltimore Orioles is mostly peppered with ultrawealthy men with local ties: David Rubenstein, Michael Bloomberg, Cal Ripken Jr., are among the group that have put forth an offer for the team valued at $1.725 billion.

Kurt Schmoke stands out among the list. The former Baltimore mayor has strong local connections, but the longtime public servant is certainly not a billionaire. Schmoke made history when he became Baltimore’s first elected Black mayor in 1987 and is the most recent mayor to serve three terms. After leaving office, he became the dean of the Howard University School of Law and now serves as president of the University of Baltimore.

Rubenstein “let me know a while back he was looking for some participants in the investment group that basically sent the signal to the community that the Orioles were here to stay,” Schmoke said in an interview.

Ripken Jr., the hometown hero who rose to historic heights with the Orioles, “is a great symbol of that,” Schmoke said. “And I, well, you could say that literally and figuratively, I’m a minority participant,” he added with a laugh.

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Under the terms of the pending deal, Rubenstein and New York businessman Michael Arougheti will own about 40% of the team, and will purchase the remainder of Peter Angelos’ stake after the patriarch’s death. The Angelos family owns 70% of the franchise.

A spokesman for Rubenstein did not return a request for comment.

Their ownership has been fraught in recent years. John Angelos told Gov. Wes Moore to say he was not planning to sell a majority stake in the team as recently as December; the same month, the Orioles finally inked a new Camden Yards lease with the state after a bump in the road.

Should Major League Baseball commissioners approve the sale of the team at their meeting next week, Schmoke said he will participate behind the scenes, advising ownership on navigating relationships with state and local officials.

The former mayor graduated from Baltimore City College in 1967, a year after his classmate Rubenstein. Schmoke said the two first met through the Lancers Boys Club as fellow City students. They stayed friends over nearly six decades, reuniting with other Lancers a couple times a year.

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“He’s a really down-to-earth guy with a dry sense of humor,” Schmoke said. “I give as much advice as I possibly can when asked.”

The former mayor said he was honored to be approached for the group, and that he’s put money into the effort, declining to say how much. “Not at the level of Mr. Rubenstein,” he said. “I’ve spent most of my career as a public servant, so it will be modest in comparison.”

Schmoke said he has yet to meet Arougheti, who he said will be most involved with the team, alongside Rubenstein.

“But I was pleased to hear from David that he also has very strong support of the current management group and [Mike] Elias,” the executive vice president and general manager, Schmoke said.

“I think you probably won’t see a big time house clean, just an attempt to build on what’s already been put together over the last few years,” Schmoke said.

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Rubenstein is not Schmoke’s only friend in the investor group. Schmoke and Ripken have has a close relationship since Schmoke was mayor and Ripken’s then-wife, Kelly, helped the Democrat promote his adult literacy campaign, The City That Reads. The couple came to Schmoke and proposed that each time the baseball player hit a home run, they would donate to and fundraise for reading programs. Ripken Jr. and Schmoke stayed in touch; after the former mayor left office, an officer assigned to his security detail became a driver and assistant to Ripken Jr.

Schmoke also has a connection to another Baltimore sports team — Ron Shapiro, the special adviser to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, was the treasurer of his mayoral campaign.

When asked his favorite Orioles player, Schmoke responded: “That’s a trap!” He eventually relented and gave a shout out to Brooks Robinson, who he praised for his involvement with local nonprofits and communities.

This story has been updated to clarify that Kurt Schmoke is Baltimore's first elected Black mayor. Clarence "Du" Burns became Baltimore's first Black mayor ex officio after the resignation of then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer.

Emily Sullivan covers Baltimore City Hall. She joined the Banner after three years at WYPR, where she won multiple awards for her radio stories on city politics and culture. She previously reported for NPR’s national airwaves, focusing on business news and breaking news. 

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