Rams invoke escape clause

May 04, 1994|By Jon Morgan and John W. Frece | Jon Morgan and John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writers

Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday's official notice by the Los Angeles Rams that they are breaking their lease with Anaheim, Calif., opens the way for Orioles owner Peter Angelos to lure the team to Baltimore.

"Peter has been pursuing this very persistently. He knew the Rams were going to make a move today. He could do nothing until after that was formalized," Schaefer said.

The Rams yesterday delivered their formal notice to Anaheim city leaders that the team expects to cancel its lease in 15 months, effective Aug. 3, 1995. Invoking the so-called "escape clause" in the team's 30-year stadium lease is required before the team can move.

The team also gave the city a check for $2 million, a down payment on $30 million in stadium bonds it must pay back if it leaves. The deposit is nonrefundable, although city officials say it could be negotiated if the team stays.

A written statement by Rams executive vice president John Shaw said that no decision has been made to leave Anaheim Stadium and that the Rams have not begun negotiations with other cities. The 15-month notice can be revoked, he said.

Some city officials, while vowing to fight to keep the team, say they doubt they will succeed because talks over the past few months have gone nowhere. The team said in February that it would issue yesterday's notice.

In addition to Baltimore, St. Louis, Hartford, Conn., Memphis, Tenn., and San Antonio have expressed interest in the team.

Anaheim City Manager James D. Ruth issued a statement yesterday saying: "This notice has been anticipated for some time and therefore comes as no surprise to us. The city remains open and responsive to exploring options that would keep the Rams in Anaheim."

Angelos was unavailable for comment yesterday, but Monday he said he would "aggressively move forward" to procure a team. Sources familiar with his plans say he has offered to buy a significant minority share of the team, allowing the current owner to retain control and receive an immediate infusion of cash. In addition, he would handle the necessary legal work involved in the move.

Schaefer said he expects Angelos to go see team owner Georgia Frontiere. He described the Rams as the front-runner among teams possibly interested in moving to Baltimore. "Oh, yeah, by far. She's made it known she's leaving. Isn't any question she's leaving," Schaefer said.

Angelos also has offered to buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Schaefer has spoken with the owner of the Los Angeles Raiders.

"He feels confident he is going to be able to bring a football team to Baltimore. And I don't underestimate him," Schaefer said.

The governor said he expected the Washington Redskins to oppose a team in Baltimore.

"I think they have tried from the very beginning," Schaefer said. "He [Angelos] is willing to go to court, and he feels confident he will win the case."

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