Arte Moreno retains ownership of Angels after sale investigation

Citing “unfinished business,” Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has decided that 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 announcing plans to move forward, Moreno released a 132-word statement that read in part: “[A]As the discussions progressed and began to crystallize, we realized that our hearts remain with the Angels and we are not ready to say goodbye to the fans, players and our staff.”

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 team skyrocket in value in subsequent years. Forbes valued the Angels at $2.2 billion in March 2022. It was widely predicted that a potential sale would raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion. Joe Lacob, the majority owner of the Golden State Warriors, and Patrick Soon-Shiong, owner of the Los Angeles Times, were 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 dragged on and a potential sale entered its late stages, Moreno found it increasingly difficult to part with a franchise he’s run for two decades. It’s also possible that potential buyers didn’t meet Moreno’s asking price, though the source disputed that idea.

In a statement, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred wrote: “Despite buyers’ strong interest in the Angels, Arte Moreno’s love of the game is what matters most to him. I am very pleased that the Moreno family has decided to retain ownership of the team.”

On August 22, Moreno announced that the team had engaged financial advisors at Galatioto Sports Partners to assist with a potential sale. While 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 from San Diego, Manfred pretended the process was progressing, saying there were “multiple parties in the data room” – where interested buyers can take a look at a team’s financials – while adding that “the club would like the sale resolved before Opening Day.” Since then, potential buyers have been given tours of the ballpark, a source said. But it is not known if any formal bids have been heard.

The 2023 season will serve as Moreno’s 21st as owner of the Angels. It’s not certain how long he’ll keep the franchise, or if one of his three kids will eventually change his mind and take an interest in filling his shoes.

“During this process, it became clear that we have unfinished business and feel we can make a positive impact on the future of the team and the fan experience,” Moreno wrote in his statement. “This off-season, we committed to a franchise record player payroll and we still want to achieve our goal of bringing a World Series Championship back to our fans. We’re excited about this next chapter of Angels Baseball.”

Moreno, the first Hispanic owner of a major sports team in the US, gained instant credibility when he took over. He slashed beer prices, signed Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon, and watched the Angels, led by Mike Scioscia, embark on a dominant streak of five division titles over a six-year span from 2004 to 2009.

But the Angels have only made the postseason once since then. In that trajectory, Moreno has drawn increasing criticism for failing to place a winning product around the transcendent talents of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Moreno has taken flak for not investing enough in scouting and player development, not allocating enough financial resources to align the Angels with other analytic-minded franchises, and not passing the luxury tax threshold to make up for shortcomings in those areas.

In recent years, under Moreno, the Angels have also become the face of more widespread issues regarding the treatment of minor league players and the waiver of bonuses in the international market. But the biggest black mark surrounded the overdose death of young pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019, which led to 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 pending, among other lawsuits.

Moreno urged payroll to post numbers in the offseason, allowing general manager Perry Minasian to spend money on some veteran players – both through trade and free agency – who would help deepen the roster as he searches was to a berth in the post-season. The Angels also decided not to trade Ohtani as he entered his free agent year as they had at least an outside chance to renew him.

Angel Stadium, which opened in 1966, stands as the fourth-oldest ballpark in the majors and is in dire need of a major renovation. Moreno has twice negotiated deals with the city of Anaheim to buy the ballpark and surrounding land that later fell apart, most recently due to an FBI investigation into the former mayor of Anaheim.

But Angel Stadium’s proximity to major highways and theme parks, and the prospect of building something around it, was considered attractive to prospective owners. So was the Angels’ substantial media rights deal, a 20-year, $3 billion contract with Fox that took effect in the 2012 season. Those factors, coupled with the rarity of owning a baseball franchise in Southern California, led some to speculate that the Angels could sell for as much as $3 billion.

That speculation is no longer necessary.

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