The two sons of longtime Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos are fighting over the future of the baseball team, their father’s law firm and the family fortune, according to an explosive new lawsuit.
Louis Angelos, 52, of Baltimore County, sued his brother and mother Thursday in Baltimore County Circuit Court. He claims his father intended for the two brothers to control the team equally, but that John, 54, of Nashville, has grabbed power.
“John intends to maintain absolute control over the Orioles — to manage, to sell, or, if he chooses, to move to Tennessee (where he has a home and where his wife’s career is headquartered) — without having to answer to anyone,” according to the lawsuit.
Peter Angelos collapsed in Oct. 13, 2017 due to the failure of his aortic valve, the lawsuit says. He established a trust, with his wife and two sons appointed as co-trustees. The lawsuit reveals infighting has gripped the brothers since Peter Angelos’ illness.
“The purpose of this lawsuit is simple. Peter Angelos created a trust for the express purpose of ensuring that his sons would share equally in decision-making and inheritance of all family assets, including the Orioles. John Angelos, however, has been working secretly to undermine his father’s intentions and to gain unilateral control. Lou Angelos is compelled to bring this action to set things right,” according to a statement from his attorneys Jeffrey Nusinov and Paul Raschke.
The suit says a top priority of Angelos’ wife Georgia, 80, has been to sell the team, and an advisor went about trying to negotiate a sale in 2020. Louis Angelos says John Angelos nixed the deal. It also claims that John Angelos forced out former star centerfielder and Orioles Hall of Famer Brady Anderson from his front office role, because he “presented a threat.”
“John unilaterally and without consultation ordered General Manager Michael Elias to fire Anderson,” the lawsuit says.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges John “fired long-time employees who would not play ball and surrounded himself with yes-men.”
John issued a statement through the Orioles four days later, on Monday. He refuted claims the family had considered moving the team.
“The Orioles will forever play at Oriole Park, and at no time ever have we contemplated anything different,” he wrote.
While John maintained the Orioles will play in Baltimore “as long as Fort McHenry is standing watch over the Inner Harbor,” he did not address the other allegations. He has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit reveals a rift between Peter and John Angelos, with John “openly displaying his disregard for his father’s prerogatives as the managing partner” of the team. There was also “bitter, regular” conflict over John’s failure to pass the bar after attending law school.
Peter Angelos was the lead investor of a group that purchased the team in 1993 from Eli Jacobs, for a then-record $173 million. Minority partners included the late novelist Tom Clancy, movie director Barry Levinson, former tennis star Pam Shriver and businessman Steve Geppi.
Amid Angelos’ declining health, Major League Baseball in 2019 asked who was running the team and would be the “control person,” meaning the person with ultimate authority and responsibility for making all decisions concerning a club.
The lawsuit says John had walked away from the team in 2009 after a disagreement over whether the Orioles should keep their spring training site in Florida or explore potential sites in Arizona. He continued to have involvement with MASN, a regional sports network the team controls, but Louis stayed, working almost exclusively for the team between 2013 and 2016, and his role grew. Then, just before Peter Angelos was hospitalized, John returned to the team at his father’s urging.
That, Louis Angelos says, began a process in which “John subverted his father’s intentions and acted unilaterally without advance disclosure to, or consultation with, Mrs. Angelos or Lou.”
The suit claims John “met unilaterally” with former Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti while then-general manager Dan Duquette was still with the team. He then “unilaterally” hired a chief operating officer for business operations, John Vidalin, who left after eight months because John Angelos refused to cede responsibilities. He also cut the pay of Anderson, the former center fielder, in half before terminating him, the suit says.
Georgia Angelos called a meeting in late 2019, wanting to talk about getting their “corporate house” in order.
“The plan was designed to get the Angelos family out of the public eye as ‘managing’ the Orioles,” the lawsuit says, calling for the creation of a board, with John serving as president and Louis as vice president.
The plan also called for transferring Mr. Angelos’ interests in the Orioles into his revocable trust as a prelude to a sale, the suit says. Georgia Angelos was “anxious to implement this plan,” it says. Instead, John “sprang into action,” creating a leadership team with himself positioned as chairman and CEO, and no mention of Louis or their mother.
Louis Angelos claims his brother fed their mother “misinformation regarding both the team and Lou. He harangued her over the telephone, angrily feeding her half-truths and outright fabrications that paralyzed her with confusion, fear and indecision.”
The suit says John Angelos “co-opted” his father’s former attorney, Chris Jones, by helping boost Jones’ daughter, an aspiring country music singer named Carter Faith. John Angelos’ wife, Margaret Valentine, runs a Nashville-based music production company that took Faith under her wing, the suit says. She has performed multiple times at Camden Yards.
In early 2020, the suit says, the Orioles learned that “an excellent deal with a credible group of buyers was ripe for development.” A sale of the team prior to Mr. Angelos’ death would have resulted in a sizeable tax hit, but a team official conceptualized a two-step sale that would enable the Angelos family to realize significant tax savings. Louis believes John nixed the deal; the buyer group came back in May 2020, and their mother had an attorney speak to her sons in an unsuccessful attempt to convince them to sell.
In November 2020, John Angelos emerged as his father’s successor after being approved by other MLB owners as the team’s “control person.” The suit does not explain how that came to be, except to allege that throughout the year John Angelos had “tightened the screws” on his brother and operated the team “in secret and with unchecked power,” the suit says.
As recently as April, the lawsuit says, Louis Angelos sent letters to his mother asking for information he says he is entitled to as a co-trustee. The suit says his mother texted him back: “Louis, I reread the letters and they made me very angry. Have the letters rescinded immediately. ... Otherwise, I will be forced to begin to alter the trust to protect the wealth.
Separately, the suit says that John Angelos has been pushing to dissolve their father’s law firm.
In June 2020, John’s attorney, Chris Jones, of the firm Moore & Van Allen, established an LLC in Maryland and transferred more than $90 million worth of properties and interests from Peter Angelos into the company, according to the lawsuit. John maintains authority over the LLC.
“The property transfers were made without Lou’s knowledge or consent,” according to the lawsuit.
Louis Angelos is asking for a jury trial, and for the courts to remove the assets from the LLC.
He’s also asking a Baltimore County Circuit judge to issue an injunction to block his brother from interfering with their father’s law firm, from conducting negotiations to sell the Orioles and from taking any action on the family trust.
While the lawsuit speculates that John Angelos might want to move the team, there are no allegations that he took any such steps. John Angelos has said the team would not be moving. “As long as Fort McHenry is watching over the harbor, the Orioles will be in Baltimore,” John Angelos told Baltimore Magazine in 2019.
The Orioles’ original lease was set to expire at the end of 2021, but the team signed a two-year extension through the end of 2023. The team can make a one-time, five-year extension by February 1, 2023.
The Maryland State legislature earlier this year passed an initiative committing $1.2 billion for upgrades to Oriole Park as well as the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium, an effort to keep both teams in Baltimore.
The Orioles were valued at $1.375 billion by Forbes in March.