Birds for sale

June 07, 1991

Though owner Eli Jacobs downplays reports he's trying to sell the Orioles, as a businessman he no doubt realizes he stands to make a bundle on the deal. The team is thought to be worth at least $120 million, about $50 million more than the current ownership paid for it less than three years ago.

If Washington fails to get a National League expansion franchise, the Orioles will look like a very lucrative property for the 1990s, especially after they begin playing in the new 46,000-seat stadium at Camden Yards next year.

With its 72 sky boxes and club seating, the new stadium will offer revenue potential undreamed of at the old Memorial Stadium, and during the first couple of years, at least, the Orioles' owners can count on as many people coming to Baltimore just to see the new ballpark as to watch the club play.

That's another reason there's virtually no chance the team will leave town before its 15-year lease expires. Too many people want to buy teams for the Orioles to go begging, and one that has a monopoly in the affluent Baltimore-Washington market simply is too good a bargain to pass up.

If Jacobs does sell, it would be the fourth change of ownership since the club moved here from St. Louis in 1954. But the city is in a win-win situation. With an "iron-clad" stadium lease, according to the Maryland Stadium Authority, Baltimore can count on having major league baseball at least until the year 2006. Our only hope is that if and when a deal is made, the new owners will be as concerned about their player's prowess on the field as they are on the business' bottom line.

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