Citing ‘unfinished business’, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has decided his team is no longer for sale, a change of heart that shocked the industry and surprised many across the organization. .
On Monday afternoon, five months after essentially announcing his intention to move on, Moreno released a 132-word statement which said, in part:[A]Discussions have progressed and started to crystallize, we have realized that our hearts remain with the angels, and we are not ready to part ways with fans, players and our employees.”
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 saw the value in the team soar in the following years. Forbes valued the Angels at $2.2 billion in March 2022. A potential sale was widely predicted to net around $2.5 billion. Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong are 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 continued and a potential sale neared completion, Moreno found it increasingly difficult to part ways with a franchise he was presiding over. for two decades. It’s also possible that potential buyers didn’t meet Moreno’s asking price, though the source disputed that notion.
In a statement, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote, “Despite strong buyer 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 owning the team.”
Returning on August 22, Moreno announced that the team had hired financial advisors at Galatioto Sports Partners to help with a potential sale. Although it was initially billed as exploratory in nature, the perception throughout the sport was that the Angels would indeed be sold. Moreno said as much as part of his statement, writing, “Now is the time.”
Just over three months later, at MLB’s winter meetings in San Diego, Manfred gave the impression that the process was moving forward, saying there were “several parts in the data room” – where interested buyers can take a closer look at a team’s finances – while adding that “the club would like the sale to be resolved before opening day”. Since then, potential buyers have received tours of the ballpark, a source said. But it is not known whether formal offers have been heard.
The 2023 season will be Moreno’s 21st as an Angels owner. It’s unclear how long he’ll hold onto the franchise, or if any of his three children will eventually change their minds and have an interest in filling their shoes.
“During this process, it has become clear that we have unfinished business and we believe we can have a positive impact on the future of the team and the fan experience,” Moreno wrote in his statement. “This offseason we committed to paying a franchise record holder and we still want to achieve our goal of bringing a World Series championship back to our fans. We are excited for this next chapter of Angels Baseball.”
Moreno, the first Hispanic owner of a major sports team in the United States, gained instant credibility by taking over. He lowered beer prices, signed Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon, and saw the Angels, under Mike Scioscia, begin a dominating streak of five division titles over a six-year span from 2004 to 2009.
But the Angels have only made the playoffs once since. In this streak, Moreno received more and more criticism for not putting a winning product around the transcendent talents of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Moreno has been criticized for not investing enough in player scouting and development, not allocating enough financial resources to put the Angels on par with other analytically-minded franchises, and not crossing the luxury tax threshold. to compensate for deficiencies in these areas.
In recent years, the Angels, under Moreno, have also become the face of more widespread issues regarding the treatment of minor league players and the denial of bonuses in the international market. But the biggest black mark surrounded the overdose death of young pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019, which triggered a 22-year prison sentence for Eric Kay, a longtime member of the team’s public relations department. A wrongful death lawsuit surrounding Skaggs’ death is still ongoing, among other litigation.
Moreno has pushed payrolls to record numbers this offseason, allowing general manager Perry Minasian to spend on a number of veteran players — both through trade and free agency — who would help deepen the roster while continuing. a place in the playoffs. The Angels also decided not to trade Ohtani until after his free agent year, at least maintaining an outside chance to extend him.
Angel Stadium, which opened in 1966, is the fourth-oldest majors baseball stadium and is in desperate need of a major renovation. Moreno has twice brokered deals with the city of Anaheim to buy the ballpark and its surrounding grounds which later collapsed, most recently due to an FBI investigation of the former mayor of Anaheim.
But Angel Stadium’s proximity to major highways and theme parks, and the prospect of building something around it, were seen as attractive to potential owners. So did the Angels’ substantial media rights, a 20-year, $3 billion deal with Fox that took effect in the 2012 season. These factors, coupled with the scarcity of owning a baseball franchise in the South of California, have prompted some speculation that the Angels could sell for as much as $3 billion.
This speculation is no longer necessary.