Governor and other state officials wish they’d known about the Orioles sale a while back, but they’re not inclined to scotch the deal

Governor and other state officials wish they’d known about the Orioles sale a while back, but they’re not inclined to scotch the deal

State Treasurer Dereck Davis (left) and Gov. Wes Moore (right) convene after a meeting of the Board of Public Works on Jan. 31, 2024, where each addressed news reports about a sale of the Baltimore Orioles. (Sapna Bansil/Capital News Service)

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By SAPNA BANSIL

Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Gov. Wes Moore and other state officials expressed anger and disappointment Wednesday that Baltimore Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos did not inform them of his plans to sell the team – but they also indicated they’re pleased with the outcome of the sale anyway.

News of the sale to billionaire Baltimore native David Rubenstein emerged Tuesday, less than two months after the state and the Orioles reached an agreement to keep the team in downtown Baltimore for at least 15 years. The deal marked the end of a fraught, drawn-out negotiation and came weeks before the team’s lease at the state-owned Oriole Park at Camden Yards was set to expire.

While Rubenstein was first linked to the Orioles in December, he was not involved in negotiating the lease, state officials told reporters on Wednesday. It was unclear if Rubenstein had been consulted by Angelos during the talks.

State officials also said they were unaware during the lease negotiations that a sale to Rubenstein was pending.

“The transparency that was required – it was not there,” Moore said. “And it’s disappointing.”

State Treasurer Dereck Davis told reporters Angelos previously gave officials “a flat denial” that the team would be sold. Davis said he learned of the sale “in the papers, like everybody else.”

Efforts by Capital News Service to reach Angelos for comment were not immediately successful.

“If John can hear me now, ‘It’s deeply disappointing and troubling that you could look your state in the eye and outright lie to us about your intentions,’” Davis said during a meeting Wednesday of the Board of Public Works. “We had a right to know, given the amount of investment we were committing to this.”

Despite their dismay at the process of the sale, state officials on Wednesday expressed optimism about the new ownership group, led by Rubenstein, a 74-year-old who co-founded the private equity firm The Carlyle Group and described himself as a lifelong Orioles fan. He is worth $3.7 billion, according to Forbes.

Some officials said they know little about Rubenstein, who confirmed the sale Wednesday. Davis said he has never met him. Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, said he has only encountered Rubenstein at a tour for the billionaire’s book, “The American Experiment: Dialogues on a Dream.”

But there was hope that a new, locally based ownership might invest – in both a burgeoning young team and in downtown Baltimore – in ways Angelos was criticized for not doing.

“We want to make sure that everything is finalized … but at the end of the day, this is a really great result for not only the team, but importantly, Baltimore, the region, the state,” Ferguson told reporters as he left the Senate floor on Wednesday.

“Where we’ve landed is the best-case scenario because we’ve locked in the team for at least 15 years, but likely 30, and we’ve set up the opportunity for a local owner to infuse new capital into the team, into the surrounding area,” Ferguson added. “It’s the best possible result.”

Moore’s office confirmed to Capital News Service that the ownership group also includes former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, New York businessman Mike Arougheti, basketball Hall of Famer Grant Hill and Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. The group will purchase the Orioles for $1.725 billion, according to multiple news reports.

Officials reiterated that the change in ownership would not impact the lease agreement. Ferguson described that deal as “ironclad” and said it accounted for the possibility of a sale.

The deal prohibits the Orioles from relocating during the term of the lease, according to a summary of the agreement.

If the sale is finalized, it will mark the end of more than 30 years of the Angelos family owning the team. John Angelos’ father, Peter, purchased the Orioles in 1993.

“While there were some bumpy moments, we’re really set up for success,” Ferguson said, reflecting on Angelos’ tenure. “We’ve got a great young team, we’ve got potential for new ownership, we’ve got a long-term deal in place … a great farm system. I think we’ll look back and realize that over the last few years, it’s really been set up for a good moment. And that’s to John’s credit for leading us to this point.”

About The Author

Capital News Service

aflynn1@umd.edu

Capital News Service is a student-powered news organization run by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. With bureaus in Annapolis and Washington run by professional journalists with decades of experience, they deliver news in multiple formats via partner news organizations and a destination Website.

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