Citing “unfinished business,” Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno decided his team was no longer for sale, a change of heart that shocked the industry and surprised many throughout the organization.
On Monday afternoon, five months after essentially announcing plans to move forward, Moreno issued a 132-word statement which reads in part:[A]Discussions progressed and began to take shape, and we realized that our hearts remain with the angels, and we are not ready to separate from the fans, players and our staff.”
Moreno, 76, bought the Angels from The Walt Disney Company for $183.5 million in 2003, the year after the first and only championship in franchise history, and watched the team rise in value over the following years. Forbes estimated the angels to be worth $2.2 billion in March of 2022. The potential net sale was widely expected to be somewhere near $2.5 billion. Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong were rumored to be among those interested, with a sale expected in the coming months.
But a source familiar with Moreno’s thinking said that as the process dragged on and a potential sale moved into the later stages, Moreno found it increasingly difficult to let go of the franchise he had presided over for two decades. It’s also possible that potential buyers didn’t meet Moreno’s asking price, though the source disputed that idea.
In a statement, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote: “Despite buyer’s strong interest in the Angels, Arte Moreno’s love of the game is most important to him. I am very pleased that the Moreno family has decided to continue to own the team.”
On August 22, Moreno announced that the team had retained financial advisors at Galatioto Sports Partners to assist with a potential sale. Although initially described as scouting in nature, the perception throughout the sport was that the Angels were actually going to be sold. Moreno said as much as part of his statement, writing: “Now is the time.”
A little more than three months later, during the MLB Winter Meetings from San Diego, Manfred made it appear as if the process was moving forward, saying there were “multiple parties in the data room” — where interested buyers could get a closer look at the team’s financials — with Adding that “the club wishes to resolve the sale before opening day.” Since then, potential buyers have been given ballpark rides, a source said. But it is not known if any official bids have been heard.
The 2023 season will be Moreno’s 21st as Angels owner. It is not certain how long he will keep the franchise, or if any of his three children will eventually change their minds and be interested in filling his shoes.
“Throughout this process it has become clear that we have unfinished business and we feel we can make a positive impact on the future of the team and the fan experience,” Moreno wrote in his statement. “This season, we’ve committed to awarding franchise record player salaries and still want to achieve our goal of bringing back the World Series to our fans. We’re excited for the next chapter of Angels Baseball.”
Moreno, the first Hispanic owner of a major sports team in the United States, gained instant credibility upon taking over. He lowered beer prices, signed Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon, and watched the Angels, under Mike Sciocia, begin a streak of five titles over six years from 2004 to 2009.
But the Angels have only made the postseason once since then. In this range, Moreno has received increasing criticism for failing to base a winning product around the transcendent talents of Mike Trout And Shuhei Ohtani. Moreno has been attacked for not investing enough in scouting and player development, not allocating enough financial resources to put the Angels on a par with other analytically minded franchises and not going over a luxury tax threshold to offset shortcomings in those areas.
In recent years, the Angels, under Moreno’s leadership, have also become the face of more publicized issues regarding the treatment of minor league players and withholding bonuses in the international market. But the biggest black mark surrounded the overdose death of young pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019, which resulted in a 22-year prison sentence for Eric Kay, a longtime member of the team’s public relations department. A wrongful death lawsuit over Skaggs’ death is still pending, among other lawsuits.
Moreno pushed payroll records offseason, allowing general manager Perry Minassian to spend on a number of veteran players—via trade and free agency—who would help deepen the roster while chasing a postseason berth. The Angels also decided not to trade Ohtani in his free agent year, preserving at least an outside opportunity to extend it.
Angel Stadium, which opened in 1966, is the fourth oldest in the major leagues and is in desperate need of a major renovation. Moreno twice negotiated deals with the city of Anaheim to purchase a football stadium and land around it that later collapsed, most recently an FBI investigation of the former mayor of Anaheim.
But Angel Stadium’s proximity to major highways and amusement parks, and the prospect of building something around it, was considered enticing to potential owners. So was the Angels’ thematic media rights deal, a 20-year, $3 billion contract with Fox that took effect in the 2012 season. These factors, along with the rarity of owning a Southern California baseball franchise, have led some to speculate that the Angels may Sells up to $3 billion.
Such speculation is no longer necessary.
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