Angels’ Arte Moreno Walked Away From The Highest Sale Price In Baseball History

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After announcing in August that he’d initiated a formal process to evaluate strategic alternatives for the Los Angeles Angels, including a possible sale of the team, billionaire owner Arte Moreno said Monday that he’s ending the exploratory process and plans on keeping the MLB team beyond the 2023 season.

Moreno could have made a tidy bundle on a sale. Multiple sources told Forbes that there were at least three people offering to pay more than the record $2.42 billion Steve Cohen spent for the New York Mets in 2020, with some speculating the final price could have reached $3 billion. In our annual MLB valuations last March, Forbes calculated that the Angels were worth $2.2 billion. Moreno paid $183.5 million for the team in 2003.

The interested parties, one of whom was from Japan, all had bank accounts big enough to write a check for the team, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak. One of the potential bidders went so far as to hire an architect and construction firm to visit Angel Stadium in Anaheim to examine how renovating the 57-year-old ballpark could boost revenue. (A $117 million spruce-up was done in 1998.) Prospective bidders believed value could be added elsewhere, such as naming rights for the ballpark (perhaps $10 million a year) and a mixed-use development around the stadium, on the 150 acres of parking lot space owned by the city of Anaheim but controlled by the team via its lease agreement with the city, good through 2038.

Moreno might have explored a sale in the first place due to the bad blood he shared with the Anaheim City Council. Moreno wanted to buy the land around the ballpark so he could develop it. But last May, the council canceled the Angel Stadium land sale following an FBI corruption probe into former Mayor Harry Sidhu for sending documents to the Angels during the negotiations, which prompted the Angels to threaten the city with two lawsuits.

The big challenge now for Moreno, 76, is what to do about his 28-year-old superstar, Shohei Ohtani. The most prolific two-way player since Babe Ruth becomes a free agent after the 2023 season and might command a $500 million contract in the range of $45 million to $50 million a year. True, the Angels have solid financials, with profits expected to be over $25 million for the 2022 season, and no long-term debt. But it’s doubtful that Moreno, worth $4.1 billion, will be able to outbid the Los Angeles Dodgers, who appear to be clearing salary space for the outfielder-pitcher. Even if Moreno manages to keep Ohtani, it would be difficult for him to spend what’s needed for other players to improve a team that’s posted seven consecutive losing seasons. The Angels already are projected to have the tenth-highest payroll in baseball this season.

When he announced he was pulling the plug on the sale, Moreno said, in part, “We realized our hearts remain with the Angels and we’re not ready to part ways with the fans, players and employees.”

That could’ve been $3 billion worth of heart.

Forbes Business
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