Legg chief's plate is full, but is that home plate?

July 26, 2005|By Bill Atkinson

NOW HERE'S a Baltimore power lunch: Peter Angelos, Chip Mason and Bill Miller.

Their bread-breaking today is nothing more than a social call, says Angelos, the Orioles' owner, and Mason says he has lunch with Angelos about once every six weeks. "Chip is a good friend of mine and Miller is the guru of all stock pickers," Angelos said.

"I wouldn't get too excited about that."

Still, rumors have been around for a long time that Mason and Miller -- the CEO and mutual-fund star, respectively, at Legg Mason -- might be interested in making an offer for the Os.

Both are Os fans. A former college baseball player known for his eclectic approach to stock picking, Miller has made Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game required reading for his group of investment pros. The book explains how to build a consistent winner out of players with overlooked talents and focuses on Billy Beane's strategy at the Oakland A's.

Miller and Mason could afford to get involved with something like this. Mason's shares in Legg are up more than $84 million on paper in just the past month. They've been driven up by Legg's announcement in June that it will more than double in size by swapping its brokerage unit for Citigroup's asset management business.

Of course, Mason says the Citi deal is also a good reason not to do anything else big. "To throw anything on my plate right now is extremely unrealistic," Mason said.

The people who run the Examiner of Washington, the startup free daily newspaper circulated in the D.C. metro area's more affluent suburbs, aren't saying if they're inclined to push north. But if they are, Herbert W. Moloney III would be the person to do it.

Until going to work for the Examiner early this year, he was chief operating officer of Vertis Inc., a Baltimore marketing company that specializes in direct mail and advertising inserts. He left the company after 10 years to become publisher in April of the Examiner, which is owned by billionaire Philip F. Anschutz.

Moloney previously spent 23 years working for Knight Ridder, which owns The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Miami Herald.

"I have always ... had an affinity toward newspapers," he said, saying his new job offers "a very interesting opportunity."

Moloney sits on the board of Lee Enterprises, a fast-growing media company in Davenport, Iowa, that is run by Mary Junck, former publisher of The Sun. She called him a marketing and sales pro and a strong manager.

"Herb is the guy on our board who knows the most about the day-to-day operating of the business," she said.

Anschutz also owns the Examiner in San Francisco and has trademarked the name in nearly 70 cities across the country. It would be surprising if Baltimore wasn't on his expansion list.

Even though the newspaper industry is struggling as readers and advertising dollars dwindle, Moloney says there is a market for a paper that reaches readers who have money.

"People are still reading a lot of newspapers every day," he said. "I still believe that the printed word industry is powerful."

John Unitas Jr. is smiling -- sort of.

The company he runs, Unitas Management Corp., is about to emerge from bankruptcy.

The final signature on the court order is expected this week.

"It feels really good," said Unitas, son of the late legendary quarterback. "I just want to move this company forward."

But Unitas is still bitter. For more than two years, he was in a nasty legal fight with his father's second wife, Sandra Unitas, for control of the company that he and his father started in 1991 to represent and market the former Baltimore Colts great.

Unitas was kicked out of the company, sued and called a cheat. The company then filed for bankruptcy. But four months ago he won back control.

"The important thing is the company is in my hands," Unitas said. "It is being run the way it should be run. My father's image is being protected."

Bill Atkinson's column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 410-332-6961 or by e-mail at bill.atkinson@balt sun.com.

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