Angelos is unlikely point man on bid to buy Orioles Attorney relishes suing corporations

June 14, 1993|By Michael Ollove and Mark Hyman | Michael Ollove and Mark Hyman,Staff Writers

An amusing diversion this spring has been to picture the gray eminences who run Major League Baseball mixing with the colorful band of locals now trying to buy the Orioles.

Can you see it? Texas Rangers co-owner George W. Bush, the buttoned-down son of the buttoned-down ex-president, trading fashion tips with our own pony-tailed Boogie Weinglass. Or August A. Busch III, the imperial owner of the St. Louis Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., discussing plot development with the silky Barry Levinson and the rumpled Tom Clancy.

None of these Baltimore celebrities, though, represents the real affront to the rock-solid conservatism and old money that preside over Major League Baseball. That would be the other guy, their partner, the point man in one major effort to return the home team to local hands.

That would be Peter G. Angelos.

Examine the ledger. The diminutive Mr. Angelos, 63, has made his mark as a union lawyer. The team owners wage war against the players' union about every four years. Mr. Angelos has made his millions by dragging one corporation after another into the courtroom. The owners run a sport enriched and supported by corporate largess.

If the owners roused themselves into mild indignation over Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott's insults of Jews and blacks, wait till they hear Mr. Angelos' references to his Fortune 500 adversaries as a "passel of corporate assassins."

Mr. Angelos, regal with his high forehead and dark, tailored suits, looks more like the silk-stocking crowd than his more famous cohorts. Putting their idiosyncrasies aside, though, none of them should alarm baseball. Mr. Weinglass, after all, is an old-fashioned entrepreneur, Mr. Clancy a favorite author of the Republican Party and Mr. Levinson one of Hollywood's prized commodities.

None of them is demonized in corporate boardrooms as a money-hungry manipulator of jurisprudence or the archenemy of American capitalism.

None of them would be the target of these remarks, issued by Glenn Bailey, chairman of the Keene Corp., one of a score of asbestos manufacturers sued by Mr. Angelos:

"He's created no product, he's created no jobs. He's done nothing to add wealth to the nation. He's done nothing but take the productive wealth from America and put it in his own pocket."

To which Mr. Angelos, the son of a Greek immigrant tavern owner and a one-time pistol in Baltimore politics, replies, "I make no apologies."

But he does acknowledge considerable dissonance between himself and your typical baseball team owner. "I come from a different side of the line," he says in his rumbling voice. "Because I'm a plaintiff lawyer or a union lawyer, maybe I'm not the ideal person to be leading the charge. I haven't spent a lot of time socializing with bankers. I'm a little person's lawyer who has sued corporations and doctors.

"Am I the ideal person to lead the charge? Maybe not from a public relations point of view."

A matter of pride

The smile Peter Angelos is showing today is slight, a miniature version of the one you expect.

Only the day before, in this ornate downtown office, he had pored over the final surrender terms of one of the asbestos manufacturers he has pursued for years. The company was now agreeing to make payouts to all of Mr. Angelos' 7,000-plus clients, most of them Bethlehem Steel Corp. workers sickened or killed by asbestos-related disease.

The settlement probably signals the endgame in a decade-long litigation, which will result in awards approaching $1 billion.

For Mr. Angelos, vilified for years by the defendants, these are the days of vindication. "Yeah," he allows, "you feel like, 'I finally got the SOBs.' "

Despite the elegant dress and manner ("The only person I know who eats crabs in suit and tie," says Angelos deputy Tom Minkin), Mr. Angelos never seems far removed from the working men and women who have been his clients for 30 years. In taking up their cause, he has emerged as possibly the nation's pre-eminent asbestos lawyer whose law firm a year ago won a landmark case against seven asbestos manufacturers. That case has also made him a very rich man, able to make $1 million contributions to the University of Baltimore and Loyola College.

It is that newly arrived wealth that also enables Mr. Angelos to pursue the Orioles. He insists that money isn't what's driving him. A professional sports team is a good investment, but not what it was. Neither is he playing out an undying love of baseball.

Instead, he is assuming the mantle of Defender of the Civic Pride, which would be wounded, he says, if an out-of-towner acquired the home team.

Two New Yorkers say they want to buy the team as well as former Baltimorean Jean S. Fugett Jr., an ex-football player and lawyer who is chairman of TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.