Bird Seed, Please. $1,725,000,000 Worth

The Baltimore Orioles won 101 games during the regular season of 2023 and exactly zero in the post-season. That said, it was still a rare accomplishment during the reign of error that saw a scant five previous playoff appearances in an even 30 years that defined Peter and John Angelos, none of which resulted in even an appearance in a World Series they last won a decade prior to that.

None of that was as welcome news as what remains of THE BALTIMORE SUN reported yesterday via reporters (for now) Jeff Barker and Matt Weyrich:

The Angelos family has reached an agreement to sell the Orioles to private equity billionaire David Rubenstein, three sources with direct knowledge of the deal told The Baltimore Sun. Rubenstein, who has a signed agreement, according to one of the sources, is set to take over as the team’s control person as part of the deal, which values the team at $1.725 billion. 

The Angelos family has owned the team since Peter Angelos bought it for $173 million in 1993. Legal documents from 2022 revealed that the now-ailing owner wished for the team to be sold following his death so his wife, Georgia, “could enjoy the great wealth they had amassed together.” His elder son, John, has been the team’s control person since 2020.

Rubenstein, 74, is a philanthropist and founder of the Carlyle Group. He is a Baltimore native and Baltimore City College alumnus.

He will initially assume a 40% ownership stake in the Orioles with an agreement to purchase the remaining equity upon the death of family patriarch Peter Angelos, according to two of the sources.

The Angelos family would be subject to significant capital gains taxes if the team is sold before Peter Angelos’ death. Angelos, 94, has been in declining health for more than six years.

Right in line with the health of the team itself for most of his reign.  They did have an immediate upturn when they began play in Camden Yards, the downtown jewel that transformed the definition of the modern major league ballpark when it opened the season before the Angelos family took control.  The emotional beauty of seeing Cal Ripken, Junior break Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played in the fall of 1995 helped to kickstart the sport’s rebound from the devastating strike of the prior season that killed the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Serendiptously, as HEAVY’s Peter Chawaga reported, Ripken, Jr. will have a role in this new ownership regime:

David Rubenstein is set to become the control (person) of the Orioles after he agreed to a deal to buy a stake of the Orioles,” Andy Kostka of The Baltimore Banner reported on X. “Cal Ripken Jr. is part of the ownership group, sources say.  (Ripken) still lives in the area and is highly involved in the local baseball scene, regularly attending Orioles games and operating the Ripken Experience, a youth sports complex in Aberdeen,” He is also the founding owner of the Aberdeen Ironbirds, the Orioles’ High-A affiliate.”

And for as much as the Angelos’ timing was optimal back in the day, so too, does it appear that Ripken’s is as well,   Chawaga added this note courtesy of Puck News’ newest hire and card-carrying Orioles lover John Ourand:

MASN controls the local broadcasting rights for both the Orioles and the Nationals, but its complex structure has stalled attempts by both the Orioles and Nationals owners to sell their respective teams, But it shouldn’t be a surprise that these new owners, masters in the high art of financial structuring, overcame the blocker.”

Things seem to be looking up for the Orioles. 25-year-old Adley Rutschman, 22-year-old Gunnar Henderson and 20-year-old Jackson Holliday, set to make his MLB debut in the 2024 season, are arguably the best young core of players in all of baseball. The team won the AL East division last year, ending a seven-year postseason drought.

Now that astute businessmen are in charge, the potential for maximizing the return and control of their media exposure for a team with such promise is outstanding.  The Nats are in decline, having fallen precipitously since their surprising 2019 title and their impressive post-season run while the O’s were at their worst; their options are limited.  Worse comes to worse, the O’s continue to make money off of them.  Best case scenario, they restore a limited number of games to broadcast TV (current trail blazer Scripps TV owns a fairly ratings-desperate station in the market, WMAR-TV, which for years during the O’s glory days regularly and gleefully pre-empted a failing NBC for the exploits of Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and so many others.) and rake in the money and the public goodwill.

Sure, there’s still a lot of cold dreary winter left in Bawl-more.  But for the first time in many a year, there’s actual hope and a brighter future.  Fly high and proud, Birdos.

Courage…

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