The lawsuit that has split the family of ailing Orioles owner Peter Angelos won’t halt discussions about a new lease to keep the team in Baltimore, according to the Maryland Stadium Authority, which says it continues to recognize the authority of CEO John Angelos to negotiate on the club’s behalf.
The stadium authority — the Major League Baseball team’s landlord at Camden Yards — said Monday that lease talks are continuing with John Angelos, whose brother Louis accuses him of trying to wrest control and ownership of the family fortune, including the Orioles.
“The Orioles have represented to us that he [John Angelos] is CEO of the Orioles and Controlling Person under the MLB Agreement, and MSA will continue to work with him and team leadership until we are told differently,” Thomas Kelso, the stadium authority’s chairman, said in reply to questions from The Baltimore Sun. “We have an excellent working relationship with John and the team’s senior leadership.”
A new lease is critical to binding the team to Baltimore. The current lease contains a clause barring “the relocation of the Baltimore Orioles Major League Baseball Team from Baltimore, Maryland.”
In his first public comments since the lawsuit was filed Thursday, John Angelos sought Monday to reassure Baltimoreans that the Orioles will stay in town “for generations to come.”
In his suit, Louis Angelos raised the possibility that his brother could, “if he chooses,” move the team to Tennessee, where John Angelos and his wife have a home. He also said it is the family’s intent to sell the team.
In his statement, John Angelos said the state of Maryland “is committed to keeping our team in this great state, and I am equally committed to keeping the Orioles at the heart of our state.”
He also said that, “since I was appointed Chairman and CEO according to my parents’ expressed wishes, and voted as the control person for the team by the 30 Major League Clubs, I have taken significant steps to ensure that our beloved franchise’s future remains in Charm City.”
Major League Baseball team owners voted in 2020 to approve John Angelos as “control person” for the Orioles, meaning he is responsible for the team. The approval signaled an official transition from the leadership of Peter Angelos, now 92, whose health has declined in the past few years.
Louis Angelos’ attorney, Jeffrey E. Nusinov, in his own statement, challenged John Angelos’ description of how he reached his current role with the team.
“I’m shocked by John’s statement,” Nusinov said. “Peter Angelos never approved John as control person, chairman, CEO or any other title John has hijacked.”
The suit seeks to remove John and his mother, Georgia Angelos, as co-trustees of the trust in which the Orioles were placed, and remove them as co-agents of Peter Angelos’ power of attorney.
The Orioles’ original lease with the state for Oriole Park at Camden Yards began April 1, 1992, and was to expire at the end of 2021. The parties agreed in February 2021 to extend the agreement for two years, through Dec. 31, 2023, with the club retaining the right to exercise a one-time, five-year extension by Feb. 1, 2023.
Kelso, an investment banker appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2015 to be the stadium authority chairman, said both parties to the lease are in a “deliberative” phase in which stadium enhancement projects are being developed and vetted. Changes could include more social spaces, fewer seats and a sports betting area, according to the team.
While it’s not certain that any new lease would contain a nonrelocation clause, the stadium authority said in a statement to The Sun that “clauses similar to the one in our existing lease are common to such agreements.” If the club were sold, any new owner would be bound by the lease terms, according to the stadium authority.
But signing a new lease that commits the team to Baltimore for some number of years could reduce the team’s price in any potential sale, experts have said.
Any new lease would need to be approved by the Board of Public Works, which is made up of the governor, state treasurer and state comptroller.
Spokespersons for Hogan, a Republican, did not return messages Monday seeking comment on whether they would require a nonrelocation clause in any lease they approved, but a spokeswoman for Democratic State Comptroller Peter Franchot said that would be the case for him.
“The comptroller would absolutely require that those terms be in any new lease,” Franchot spokeswoman Susan O’Brien said in an interview.
Franchot is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor this year; Hogan can’t run again due to term limits.
Democratic state Treasurer Dereck Davis declined to comment, with his office saying in a statement: “The treasurer said that he does not believe it is appropriate at this time to be commenting piecemeal. Once the stadium authority and the Orioles have reached an agreement, then he said that he can make an informed decision about what is in the best interest of the state.”
Baltimore has wanted to hold its teams close since the NFL’s Colts — in a dispute with the city over improvements to the former Memorial Stadium — left town for Indianapolis on a March night in 1984. The city also fought to preserve the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
While John Angelos has said repeatedly that the Orioles won’t leave the city, he’s been mum about a possible sale. With Peter Angelos experiencing health issues in recent years, rumors have long circulated that the family might sell. A family trust holds Peter Angelos’ assets, including his majority stake in the team and millions of dollars in real estate.
Louis Angelos’ lawsuit said that with Peter Angelos “no longer capable of managing his affairs,” his wife determined it was in the trust’s best interest to sell the Orioles. But, according to the suit, John Angelos stalled and thwarted the plans to sell the team — valued by Forbes at $1.37 billion — torpedoing, according to the lawsuit, interest from “one highly credible group of buyers.”
John Angelos did not return text messages Monday seeking further comment.
In 2020, the stadium authority began studying a shift in stadium funding with an eye on keeping the Orioles happy and in Baltimore.
Under the new approach, approved this spring by the General Assembly and signed into law by Hogan, the stadium authority can borrow up to $1.2 billion to pay for stadium improvements —$600 million each for the Orioles and Ravens. But no bonds can be issued without a lease, and the lease must be long enough to pay off the longest-term bonds.
No matter who owns the club, stadium authority officials believe Major League Baseball owners would be hesitant to approve a team relocation when there is a pool of readily available public money for what Kelso calls “frequent and continued reinvestment.”
Any relocation would need the approval of 24 of the 30 club owners. And relocations are so rare that there has only been one move in the last 50 years — when the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005.
“By doing it this way, the state is saying to the teams, ‘The money is available to improve these iconic sports venues, but to access these funds the teams need to be bound to the city until the bonds are paid in full,’” said Alan Rifkin, a longtime former attorney for the Orioles. “It’s a win-win situation for all.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Hayes Gardner, Andy Kostka and Jean Marbella contributed to this article.