O's go back into hands of Baltimore Angelos officially takes over club

October 05, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Control of the Orioles returned to a Baltimore owner yesterday, when lawyer Peter G. Angelos officially took over the baseball club.

Mr. Angelos, who leads a group dominated by Maryland investors, has been waiting to assume control of the Orioles since Aug. 2, when he bought the team for $173 million, a record for a sports franchise, at a court auction in New York.

But the sale couldn't be completed until major-league owners voted their approval and the group's loan agreements had been signed. By 2:30 p.m. yesterday, those formalities had been completed.

The owners voted unanimously in favor of the Angelos group. Bud Selig, baseball's acting commissioner, said he felt the local ties of the new Orioles owners were "a very important credential."

"As a guy who came into this business to make sure that the [Milwaukee] Braves had local ownership, yes, that's extremely important. They have every right to be happy and feel good about that," said Mr. Selig, who now is a controlling investor in the Milwaukee Brewers.

For weeks, Mr. Angelos has been talking about his plans for running the team, but he was reluctant to speak freely about them until the baseball owners had their say. Yesterday, those concerns were gone, and Mr. Angelos seemed to revel in his role as the team's new managing general partner. He is the first controlling owner of the Orioles to live and work in Baltimore since Jerold C. Hoffberger in 1979.

On a warm, sun-splashed afternoon at Camden Yards, Mr. Angelos made his first public appearance as owner, looking out at a crowd that included about two dozen of his new partners in the Orioles. In a low, rumbling voice, he announced that the franchise was in Baltimore forever.

"I predict that this club will never leave here," Mr. Angelos said. "I further promise you that, as far as this ownership group is concerned, the club will never again be controlled by outside interests.

"The Orioles are such a part of this state that when you consider that somehow or other they might be controlled or some day taken away from us, that is simply unthinkable and something that we will never allow to happen."

Those sentiments played well with many in attendance, including Gov. William Donald Schaefer. The governor and Mr. ++ Angelos are old acquaintances, having served together in the Baltimore City Council in the 1960s. Mr. Angelos later ran unsuccessfully for mayor before building a thriving law practice that collected hundreds of millions of dollars in fees, mostly through its representation of workers claiming asbestos-related illnesses.

Mr. Schaefer beamed throughout an outdoor news conference held at a plaza named for outgoing owner Eli S. Jacobs, who was forced to sell the team after being forced into bankruptcy court. Mr. Schaefer called Mr. Angelos the "man of the hour." He then presented the new owner with a "certificate of excellence" and an Orioles warm-up jacket.

There was polite applause for Mr. Angelos throughout the ceremony from an eclectic group of curiosity seekers, including fans, politicians and several dozen team employees, many of them getting their first look at the Orioles' new boss.

But Mr. Angelos' best audience may have been the other investors. For many, whose only previous ties to the Orioles were their season tickets, the day seemed to border on the surreal.

A number took guided tours of the ballpark. Many spent part of the day introducing themselves to one another and sharing the good feeling that dominated the afternoon.

"What you're seeing here is a bunch of guys who spent a lot of money," said Stephen A. Geppi, whose company is the country's largest distributor of comic books. "But instead of worrying about that, they are saying, 'Hey, we bought the Orioles.' It's just a fun kind of atmosphere."

Mr. Geppi, who is one of the largest investors in the team, behind only Mr. Angelos and Mr. Clancy, seemed excited even about saying hello to his new partners, particularly those in the limelight.

"I just met Jim McKay; that was a big thrill," said Mr. Geppi, referring to the veteran sportscaster who lives in Monkton and has an investment in the team.

Mr. Angelos got the star treatment, too. A fan in an Orioles cap, recognizing Mr. Angelos as the new owner, asked for his autograph as he left the stadium late yesterday. Surprised and slightly embarrassed, Mr. Angelos obliged. "Comes with the territory, I guess," he said.

Questions were in the air about whether Mr. Angelos is likely to make big changes in the Orioles lineup, where the acquisitions of one or two star players might mean a title.

Even Mr. Schaefer speculated.

"Peter is a winner. He didn't buy the team to lose," the governor said. "I don't think he'll be afraid to spend money. If there is one guy he needs to get over the top, he'll get him. . . . He's not a shrinking violet."

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