The list of investors who've publicly expressed interest in buying the Baltimore Orioles has grown by two of the city's most celebrated television pitch-men.
The latest entries are Jack Luskin, the self-proclaimed "Cheapest Guy in Town" who owns a chain of appliance stores, and attorney Steven L. Miles of free legal pamphlets and "Let's Talk About It" fame.
Yesterday, Miles and Luskin said they've taken some very preliminary steps toward buying the team that Orioles principal owner Eli S. Jacobs has said he might sell. Both said they want to buy chiefly to ensure that the team remains in Baltimore. Even the presence of a new ballpark that is rising downtown and a 15-year lease that the Orioles have signed to play in the $105.4 million state-financed facility have not convinced them that the team is here to stay.
"It always amazes me to hear it said that the Birds are locked up with a 15-year lease," said Miles, who is Luskin's nephew. "Bull. Owners from a new area who might want to move the team would look at that 15-year lease as part of a buyout. All it means is we'd be stuck with a long-term lease."
Luskin said: "Let's say an owner from Charlotte or wherever would buy the team. They could jump ship again. It would be the Colts revisited. You'd have an empty stadium and the loss of a team."
Luskin and Miles are the second group of local investors to announce they are interested in buying the team. In June, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, a Baltimore native and the chairman of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc., which operates a nationwide chain of clothing stores, said he might lead a group that would bid for the team. Weinglass has not talked about his bid publicly since then. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Investors interested in buying the Orioles began to surface in June, after Jacobs, an investment banker who lives in New York and Los Angeles, said he'd consider selling the team he bought in 1988 for $70 million to return to a more private life. Jacobs has declined to discuss the sale in depth since then or to discuss what the price he's seeking. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Miles said he let the Orioles know of his interest in a July 24 letter to Orioles president Larry Lucchino in which Miles asks that sale talks begin quickly so that the new owners could have a say in "a few very important matters," including upcoming contract talks with Orioles players Cal Ripken and Glenn Davis.
In the letter, Miles says Luskin would own 95 percent of the team and give 5 percent to Miles for running the team's day-to-day affairs.
However, when asked whether he had the financial resources to buy the team alone, Luskin said, "Personally, no." Instead, he said he probably would have to take on local partners, maybe even Weinglass. "Our first druthers would be for Boogie to get it," Luskin said. "If not that, then a combination of Boogie and our group." Luskin added that he has not spoken to Weinglass about anything related to the Orioles.
Luskin's best-known asset is the chain of appliance stores that he and his family founded in Baltimore in 1948. The Luskins controlled nearly 3.5 million shares, or about 78 percent of Luskin's Inc. two years ago, the most recent figures available. The stock, which traded as high as $8.75 a share in the latter half of 1987, is currently trading at below $1 per share.