Arte Moreno to maintain ownership of Angels after exploring sale

Citing “unfinished business,” Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has decided that his team is no longer for sale, a change of heart that shocked the industry and surprised many throughout the organization.

On Monday afternoon, five months after essentially announcing plans to move on, Moreno released a 132-word statement that read, in part: “[A]s discussions advanced and began to crystallize, we realized our hearts remain with the Angels, and we are not ready to part ways with the fans, players, and our employees.”

Moreno, 76, purchased the Angels from The Walt Disney Company for $183.5 million in 2003, the year after the first and only championship in franchise history, and watched the team skyrocket in value over the ensuing years. Forbes valued the Angels at $2.2 billion in March of 2022. A potential sale was widely predicted to net somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion. Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong had been rumored to be among those interested, with a sale expected in the coming months.

But a source familiar with Moreno’s thinking said that as the process continued to play out and a potential sale moved into the late stages, Moreno found it increasingly difficult to part with a franchise he has presided over for two decades. It’s also possible that prospective buyers didn’t meet Moreno’s asking price, though the source disputed that notion.

In a statement, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred wrote: “Despite strong buyer interest in the Angels, Arte Moreno’s love of the game is most important to him. I am very pleased that the Moreno family has decided to continue owning the team.”

Back on Aug. 22, Moreno announced that the team had retained financial advisers at Galatioto Sports Partners to aid in a potential sale. Although it was initially billed as exploratory in nature, the perception throughout the sport was that the Angels would indeed be sold. Moreno said as much as part of his statement from him, writing: “Now is the time.”

A little more than three months later, during MLB’s winter meetings from San Diego, Manfred made it seem as if the process was moving along, saying there were “multiple parties in the data room” — where interested buyers can take a closer look at a team’s financials — while adding that “the club would like to have the sale resolved before Opening Day.” Since then, prospective buyers were given tours of the ballpark, a source said. But it isn’t known whether any formal bids had been heard.

The 2023 season will serve as Moreno’s 21st as the Angels’ owner. It is not certain how much longer he will retain the franchise, or if any of his three children from him will ultimately change their minds and have interest in filling his shoes from him.

“During this process, it became clear that we have unfinished business and feel we can make a positive impact on the future of the team and the fan experience,” Moreno wrote in his statement. “This offseason we committed to a franchise record player payroll and still want to accomplish our goal of bringing a World Series Championship back 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 US, attained instant credibility upon taking over. He lowered beer prices, signed Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon, and watched as the Angels, under Mike Scioscia, began a dominant run of five division titles over a six-year stretch from 2004 to 2009.

But the Angels have made the postseason only once ever since. In that stretch, Moreno has received increased criticism for failing to put a winning product around the transcendent talents of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Moreno has caught flak for not investing enough in scouting and player development, not allocating enough financial resources to put the Angels on par with other analytically minded franchises and not exceeding the luxury tax threshold to make up for deficiencies in those areas.

In recent years, the Angels, under Moreno, have also become the face of more widespread issues regarding the treatment of minor league players and the reneging of bonuses in the international market. But the biggest black mark surrounded the overdose death of young pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019, which triggered a 22-year prison sentence for Eric Kay, a longtime member of the team’s public relations department. A wrongful death lawsuit around Skaggs’ death is still pending, among other litigation.

Moreno pushed the payroll to record numbers this offseason, allowing general manager Perry Minasian to spend on a number of veteran players — both via trade and free agency — who would help deepen the roster while in pursuit of a postseason berth. The Angels also decided against trading Ohtani going into his free agent year, maintaining at least an outside chance of extending him.

Angel Stadium, which opened in 1966, stands as the fourth-oldest ballpark in the majors and is in desperate need of a major renovation. Moreno has twice negotiated deals with the city of Anaheim to purchase the ballpark and its surrounding land that later fell apart, most recently because of an FBI probe into the former mayor of Anaheim.

But Angel Stadium’s proximity to major freeways and theme parks, and the prospect of building something around it, was considered enticing to prospective owners. So was the Angels’ substantive media rights deal, a 20-year, $3 billion contract with Fox that took effect in the 2012 season. Those factors, coupled with the rarity of owning a baseball franchise in Southern California, prompted some to speculate that the Angels might sell for as much as $3 billion.

That speculation is no longer necessary.

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