Baltimore Orioles Chairman John Angelos did not give Maryland Gov. Wes Moore a heads-up that he was selling the team on Tuesday, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Angelos’ snub came even though the two had spent the better part of a year in intense negotiations about a new lease for the ballclub to remain at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
David Rubenstein, the billionaire Maryland resident who is leading the purchase of the team, has, however, been “actively communicating with the governor,” a source said, including Tuesday night when the news of the sale broke.
The investment group is buying the Orioles for $1.725 billion. Other investors include New York businessman Michael Arougheti, Orioles Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., the billionaire former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of Baltimore Kurt Schmoke and NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill.
Moore expressed optimism on Wednesday during his first public remarks about the deal. He opened a meeting of the state Board of Public Works in Annapolis by congratulating Rubenstein and the other investors.
“We are very much looking forward to a continuation of the strong relationship between the state of Maryland and the Baltimore Orioles,” said Moore, who wore an orange striped tie.
Moore highlighted the lease deal that the Orioles and the state finally negotiated and signed in December. Though the deal was struck with Angelos, it is binding on any subsequent owners of the team.
“We’re thrilled because being able to keep the Orioles in Baltimore for a long period of time was a key priority for this administration and this team,” Moore said. “And we are very proud that the deal that this group solidified months ago means that regardless of this transaction, this will never change. These are the Baltimore Orioles and they are going nowhere.”
The other members of the Board of Public Works who signed off on the lease — Treasurer Dereck Davis and Comptroller Brooke Lierman, both Democrats — told The Baltimore Banner that they weren’t notified of the sale, either.
Davis spoke out at the Board of Public Works meeting, saying he felt Angelos lied to state officials.
In December, Angelos had placed a call to Moore to assure him that the Orioles were not for sale — which came after reports that Rubenstein was close to buying the team.
Davis said he was troubled by the fact that Angelos “categorically denied that that they were for sale” and then went and sold the team.
“I feel lied to. I feel misled,” Davis said.
Davis said that he’s not sure who to believe or trust.
“It wasn’t just that we weren’t told something. We were lied to,” he said.
Moore responded by saying he shares concerns about transparency.
“You’re absolutely right,” the governor said. “We deserve transparency and we deserve truth.”
Moore said the situation underscores the importance of the state striking a long-term deal with the Orioles on the lease. Had there been a short-term extension of the lease, the state would have faced even more uncertainty over the future of the team and the ballpark with a sale.
“The transparency that was required — it was not there,” Moore told reporters after the meeting. “And it’s disappointing.”
Lierman, who sported an orange blouse on Wednesday, said in an interview that she’s looking forward to moving on from the Angelos family’s ownership of a team that she’s rooted for her entire life.
“I do think that John’s behavior displayed an incredible lack of respect for the state and our role in working with the Baltimore Orioles and our role as the owners of the home of the Baltimore Orioles,” Lierman said. “It’s incredibly disappointing, although, frankly not surprising.”
Lierman said it was “incredibly disrespectful” that Angelos apparently was not forthright with the state about a potential sale during the lease negotiations.
“That said, we crafted an agreement in such a way that it would not matter who owned the Orioles because I think many of us believed that the Angelos family’s days as owners were numbered anyways,” she said. “It was important for us to protect the state and taxpayers and our assets, no matter who the owners are.”
Challenging year of negotiations
The rollout of the sale of the team, with the top state officials kept in the dark, caps a year of difficult negotiations between Orioles and the governor’s office.
Sources with direct knowledge of negotiations have described to The Baltimore Banner a stressful, months-long effort to reach terms with Angelos, who came to the negotiations with frustration about the Maryland Stadium Authority and an ill-defined plan for development around the ballpark.
“It was like one long trip to the dentist,” one of the sources said.
A spokesperson for Angelos did not respond to a request for comment.
The effort kicked off with a trip to Atlanta, where Moore and Angelos toured The Battery, a development around the Atlanta Braves’ suburban stadium. The two met in Sarasota at spring training.
But the two sides struggled over the spring and summer to reach terms on a long-term deal to keep the Orioles playing at Camden Yards. They tried not to negotiate in public, but some details leaked out.
By September, the two sides were close to an impasse, one of the sources said.
The Orioles, one source said, “would accuse us of being incremental. They’d accuse us of not buying into the vision.”
The governor’s team decided they needed to reassure all the parties and pin down a big-picture agreement.
“Deals with this size and magnitude are complicated and it works better if everyone agrees, big picture: This is where we’re going and we’re committed and we’re all holding hands and we’re all publicly accountable,” one source said.
They went back to the table and reached an alignment that eventually became the memorandum of understanding that was announced with great fanfare on the Camden Yards video board in late September.
Many fans took the announcement to be a done deal on a long-term lease, when actually the MOU was a nonbinding agreement. It was the Orioles who insisted on calling it an MOU, the sources said.
“It kind of elevated it beyond what it actually was,” one of the sources said.
Though the state and Orioles both took a publicity hit for the memorandum of understanding, the sources said it did lead to an improvement in the nature of lease negotiations over the following weeks. “The Orioles, I do think, showed up in a different way, in a positive sense, after the MOU,” one source said.
Angelos and the Orioles insisted on coupling the lease with redevelopment rights for the B&O Warehouse and other areas around the ballpark; the state wanted them to be separate deals.
After a difficult Thanksgiving weekend of negotiations, both sides finally reached an agreement. “After 10 months, the O’s finally gave in,” a source said.
When other officials, particularly Senate President Bill Ferguson, objected to elements of the deal in early December, the Orioles and the Moore team went back to the negotiating table. It was at that time that Angelos told Moore in a phone call that he wasn’t selling the team.
Moore made a visit to Angelos’ home in Baltimore County on a Sunday, two days later, to hash out revisions to the deal, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations. The visit is not listed on Moore’s official calendar for December.
Angelos, the source said, “was not a happy camper.”
“It was not pleasant but the governor was tough and was insistent that this has to get done now,” the source said.
A few days later, the revised deal was announced and shepherded through approvals by the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Board of Public Works.
The votes were held and the papers were signed amid great fanfare at the B&O Warehouse. A bipartisan array of politicians watched from the audience and TV cameras were lined up to witness the moment the deal was done.
Orioles executives and the Oriole bird were there, too. Angelos was not.