Angelos' big goal: homing in on O's Local ownership basis for his bid

August 04, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

Peter G. Angelos rode the Metroliner from New York to Baltimore's Penn Station yesterday afternoon and walked through the gates of Oriole Park for the first time as anything but a paying customer.

The soon-to-be managing partner of the Orioles will not take control of the club for at least another six weeks, but Angelos immediately ushered in a new era of local ownership and tried to forge a close relationship with the media and fans.

The Baltimore lawyer spent nearly an hour in the auxiliary clubhouse fielding questions and sparring lightheartedly with a crowd of reporters that had not been this close to an Orioles owner since the earliest days of the Eli S. Jacobs era.

It had been 24 hours since his ownership group had joined with a competing partnership led by William O. DeWitt Jr. to purchase the team at auction for a record price of $173 million, and Angelos still was explaining himself.

"The purpose -- from the outset -- was to bring ownership of the club back to Baltimore," said Angelos, who was joined at the news conference by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. "It seemed to me incongruous that a city as thriving as Baltimore and a state as wonderful as Maryland always required help from out of town with our ballclub."

The merger with the DeWitt group was completed with the understanding that the controlling interest in the team would be rooted firmly in Baltimore for the first time since Jerry Hoffberger sold the club to Edward Bennett Williams in 1979.

"I made it very clear that control of the ballclub will be in Baltimore completely," Angelos said. "There is going to be no sharing of authority in the running of the ballclub with anybody from outside the state.

"I told Mr. DeWitt quite candidly that there was no way that ownership of the club was going outside the state. It was not going to Cincinnati. It was not going to New York. I think there came a point where he realized that."

DeWitt, who also visited Camden Yards yesterday, made the first qualified bid for the team months ago, but he apparently realized on Monday that his group was not in a position to outbid either Angelos or New York art dealer Jeffrey H. Loria. He accepted a non-controlling interest because of his desire to have a more hands-on role in the operation of a baseball team.

"I'm a limited partner with the Rangers and don't have any active involvement in the operation of the team," DeWitt said. "Here, I would represent the ownership group with respect to those kinds of decisions. The day-to-day operation of the club will be like it is now, but I would expect to advise the ownership on major transactions like trades and signings."

He watched last night's game between the Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers with Angelos and club president Larry Lucchino, who was a member of DeWitt's original investment group. Lucchino has been invited to buy back into the team -- he currently owns 9 percent of the club -- and is expected to retain a major role in the day-to-day operations. But few of the details of the late-inning partnership between Angelos and DeWitt have been finalized.

Nothing will be finalized until mid-September. There are still a few members of the Angelos group who have not been scrutinized by Major League Baseball's ownership committee, so final approval could take several weeks. The sale is tentatively set to close on Sept. 15.

"The club still belongs to Mr. Jacobs," Angelos said. "I respect that the transaction has not been consummated. . . . I intend to come tothe ballpark as a fan and -- hopefully -- the governor will invite me up to his box once in a while and I'll get a better parking place."

However, Angelos did try to answer the $173 million question, even if he didn't necessarily tell Orioles fans that he will spend whatever it takes to build a world champion.

"There has been some concern that we spent too much money and there will not be enough left to make this team a consistent winner," Angelos said. "That is not the case.

"Those occasions arise when one player may make the difference," he said. "If that occasion arises, you have to be equal to it. But the best way to build a winning team is through [player] development. We're going to have to balance out desire to get strong players and be careful not to do anything to harm the club for years to come."

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