So the Orioles are heading to new ownership, with John Angelos agreeing to sell a controlling stake in the team to Baltimore native David Rubenstein and a group of investors that includes Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr.
Rubenstein will be the “control person” overseeing the operation of the franchise and communications with Major League Baseball. John Angelos took over the role in 2020 for his father, Peter, the team’s majority owner, due to the patriarch’s declining health.
Rubenstein and his group, which also includes former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill, billionaire Michael Bloomberg and other business leaders, will start by owning 40% of the team.
Fans are rejoicing, but it comes with a caveat. The deal is not finalized, and there are multiple steps that need to be taken before it is.
What comes next — and when these things will happen — leaves more questions than answers.
When will the sale be finalized?
The team formally announced the sale Wednesday afternoon, along with Rubenstein. Next, it has to be approved by the other MLB owners, who will meet Feb. 4-6 in Orlando, Florida. It requires the support of 22 of the remaining 29 owners. It is not known whether the sale will be put to a vote next week, but the process of approving a transfer typically takes months.
A sale does not mean the team can leave Baltimore. The lease agreement signed in December that keeps the Orioles at Camden Yards for at least the next 15 years transfers to the new ownership group.
Will the Orioles spend more money?
The question on every fan’s mind. John Angelos has a track record of not spending big on free agency. The team has not signed a player to a multiyear, guaranteed deal since 2018.
The Orioles won the American League East last year with the second-lowest payroll in MLB, ahead of only the Athletics. Less than two weeks before spring training, Baltimore has signed only one free agent this offseason — closer Craig Kimbrel for $12 million. The payroll is expected to increase by about $7 million this season, but only because of arbitration, not the Orioles’ own desire to spend money on improving the team.
So, will Rubenstein spend more? Rubenstein has a net worth of just under $4 billion, according to Forbes. The two most recent MLB teams to be sold — the Mets and the Royals — have seen increased spending under their new owners.
What will happen to MASN?
The deal includes the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the network that televises Orioles and Nationals game. The Angelos family owns a majority stake in MASN, with the Nationals holding the remaining portion. MLB granted MASN the Nationals’ broadcast rights in perpetuity as a way to compensate Peter Angelos after the league moved the Expos to Washington. But the two teams waged a protracted court battle over rights fees.
With a new flow of cash under the Rubenstein-led group, the network could seek improvements. The Orioles, despite owning their own network, broadcast only four spring training games last year, tied for the fewest with the Nationals. They regularly have technical difficulties — including with their app — and their content is strictly regulated, most notably with broadcaster Kevin Brown being suspended after stating a factual statistic about the Orioles’ record against the Rays. The network has yet to report on the sale.
What about the potential development rights?
John Angelos was hoping to have a 99-year ground lease as part a new lease. Without the additional revenue streams from development, he said to The New York Times, it would be hard to retain the team’s young stars unless prices increased “dramatically.” He did not get that as part of the finalized lease but was given until the end of 2027 to draft a plan and get a development rights deal approved.
It’s unclear if the new group has the same vision as Angelos, but in a statement Wednesday afternoon Rubenstein said the “opportunity for the team to catalyze development around Camden Yards and in downtown Baltimore will provide generations of fans with lifelong memories and create additional economic opportunities for our community.”