Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has decided his team will not be put up for sale, citing “unfinished business,” a change of heart that shocked the industry and surprised many in the organization.
On Monday afternoon, five months after announcing plans to move on, Moreno released a 132-word statement. In part:[A]As discussions progressed and intensified, we realized that our hearts remain with the Angels, and we are not ready to part ways with our fans, players and staff.”
Moreno, 76, bought the Angels from The Walt Disney Co. for $183.5 million in 2003, the year they won the first and only championship in franchise history, and watched the team increase in value in the following years. Forbes in 2015 In March 2022, he valued his angels at $2.2 billion. A potential sale was widely predicted to be around $2.5 billion. Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong are said to be among those interested, with a sale expected in the coming months.
But a source familiar with Moreno’s thinking says the process continues to play out and as a potential sale moves into its final stages, Moreno finds it difficult to part with the franchise he has led for two decades. Prospective buyers have not met Moreno’s price, although the source disputes that notion.
“Despite the Angels’ strong buyer interest, Arte Moreno’s love of the game is very important to him,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. I am delighted that the Moreno family have decided to continue ownership of the team.
Back in August 22, Moreno has announced that the team has retained financial advisors who can help with the sale of Galatiotto Sport Partners. Although initially claimed to be descriptive in nature, the perception within the sport was that the Angels would indeed sell. “Now is the time,” Moreno wrote in part of the statement.
A little more than three months later, during the MLB winter meetings in San Diego, Manfred made it sound like the process is moving along, saying there are “a lot of elements in the information room” — team finances that interested buyers are looking into — and adding, “The club wants the sale resolved before Opening Day.” Since then, prospective buyers have been given a tour of the ballpark, the source said. But it is not known whether any formal bid has been heard.
The 2023 season will serve as Moreno’s 21st as owner of the Angels. It’s not known how long he’ll hold onto the franchise, or if one of his three sons will eventually change their minds and become interested in filling his shoes.
“In this process, we feel that we have unfinished business and that we can have a positive impact on the future of the team and the fan experience,” Moreno wrote in a statement. “We committed to a franchise-record player payout this season and still want to achieve our goal of returning a World Series championship to our fans. We are excited about this next chapter of Angels baseball.”
Moreno, the first Hispanic owner of a major sports team in the U.S., earned instant loyalty when he took over. He undercut the Bears, signed Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon, and watched the Angels begin a dominant run under Mike Scioscia with five division titles in six years from 2004 to 2009.
But the Angels have only made the postseason once. During that stretch, Moreno was heavily criticized for not putting together a winning production around the talents of Mike Trout and Shohei Otani. Moreno has been criticized for not investing enough in scouting and player development, not allocating enough financial resources to make the Angels comparable to other analytically minded franchises, and not exceeding the luxury tax threshold to compensate for deficiencies in those areas.
In recent years, the Angels, under Moreno, have been the face of widespread issues regarding the handling of minor league players and the elimination of bonuses in the international market. But the biggest black mark surrounded young Tyler Skaggs’ binge drinking in 2019, which led to a 22-year prison sentence for Eric Kaye, a member of the team’s public relations department. A wrongful-death lawsuit related to Skaggs’ death is pending, among other lawsuits.
Moreno pushed his payroll to put up numbers this offseason, allowing general manager Perry Minasian to spend money on several veteran players — via trade and free agency — to help deepen the roster in pursuit of the postseason. The Angels also decided not to trade Ohtani in his free-agent year, at least preserving the option to extend him.
Angel Stadium, which opened in 1966, stands as the fourth oldest ballpark in the majors and is in need of extensive renovations. Moreno later negotiated twice with the city of Anaheim to buy the collapsed ballpark and surrounding land, most recently because of an FBI investigation into Anaheim’s former mayor.
But Angel Stadium’s proximity to major freeways and amusement parks and the prospect of building something around it were considered attractive to ownership. So did the Angels’ basic media rights deal, a 20-year, $3 billion contract with Fox that took effect in the 2012 season. Those factors, combined with the rarity of owning a baseball franchise in Southern California, have prompted some to speculate that the Angels could sell for as much as $3 billion.
That assumption is no longer necessary.