Angels Baseball owner Arte Moreno announced he might sell his team on Tuesday, months after an FBI corruption investigation in Anaheim upended his near-deal to buy the club’s home field for $150 million in cash.
“It’s been a great honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons,” Moreno said in a statement posted to Twitter by the Angels Baseball organization. “Although this difficult decision was entirely our choice and deserved a great deal of thoughtful consideration, my family and I have ultimately come to the conclusion that now is the time.”
Moreno’s statement comes the same day that Anaheim City Council members are expected to formally respond to a June OC Grand Jury report stating city officials “betrayed” the public with secretive dealmaking to sell the stadium to Moreno.
To read the report in full, click here.
Grand jurors in their report said the city’s negotiations with Moreno’s team fueled distrust in City Hall and suppressed public discussion. City Hall has since only partially disagreed with the citizen watchdog panel’s findings in a draft response, though it still awaits a council sign-off.
In written affidavits filed in court, federal agents allege that former Mayor Harry Sidhu shared critical information with the Angels and tried to ram the deal through in order to get the franchise executives to give him $1 million to help refinance his reelection campaign.
To read the FBI affidavit, click here.
In July 2019, Sidhu got himself appointed to the city’s negotiating team as the lone representative from the City Council to talk with the Angels.
The FBI probe was revealed in May, but the controversy didn’t deter Moreno’s insistence on finalizing his deal.
That month, SRB Management, Moreno’s negotiating team, sent a letter to City Manager Jim Vanderpool urging officials to approve the deal, despite the headlines of the week and a mayor that hadn’t been seen or heard from.
“The agreements are the product of over two years of intensive discussions with numerous City Stakeholders to achieve transformative benefits for the City,” the SRB letter written by their Attorney Allan Abshez.
City Council members later decided to cancel the stadium deal in May this year, just days after the FBI probe came to light and one day after Sidhu resigned over it.
“We have seen three Angels owners since the team moved here in 1966. While team sales don’t happen every day, they are a fact of life in sports,” said Anaheim City Hall spokesperson Mike Lyster in an emailed response to Moreno’s Tuesday announcement.
“This is a decision for Arte Moreno based on his investment and family considerations. Should we see new ownership, we look forward to continuing a great tradition of baseball in Anaheim,” Lyster said.
One of the stadium sale’s few council member critics, Jose Moreno (no relation), said Arte Moreno was always only interested in maximizing the stadium land value for himself, his family and the team.
“When it came down to negotiating the lease and the land itself, that’s where our differences came,” he said in a Tuesday phone interview. “They looked out for their interest, and it was our job to look out for ours.”
Jose Moreno also said that’s why he pushed hard for transparency around the deal and that he doesn’t think the FBI investigation influenced Arte’s decision.
“I’ll take him at his word and say, regardless, the value of the team is at a peak, and this is the right time for them to consider cashing in on their asset,” he said.
Arte Moreno bought the team from the Walt Disney Co. for $180 million in 2003.
The ownership change also later brought about the team’s infamous name change to “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” despite the stadium’s 1996 stadium lease mandating that “Anaheim” be included in the team name.
At the time, having Anaheim in the team’s name was part of the city’s concession on stadium revenues.
Anaheim ended up suing the Angels over the name change and losing in Orange County Superior Court.
Now, the Angels are simply called “The Los Angeles Angels” on Major League Baseball websites. Anaheim or Los Angeles doesn’t appear on their uniforms either, which have simply had “Angels” printed on the front since 1997.
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