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SARASOTA—A little after 10 a.m. on Sunday, Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos and his wife, Margaret Valentine, arrived on the back fields of the Ed Smith Stadium complex. They spent about an hour strolling around the fields and talking with Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde
Angelos stopped to take questions and spoke for 37 minutes, his first session with reporters who cover the team since January 16th when he reaffirmed the Orioles’ commitment to Baltimore and offered to show reporters the team’s financials.
On February 1st, the deadline for the Orioles to pick up a five-year option on extending their lease at Camden Yards, Angelos and Governor Wes Moore issued a joint statement promising to work toward a long-term commitment. The Orioles’ lease at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992, expires on December 31st, and Angelos believes a long-term extension is near.
“I have no doubt that we will relatively rapidly move towards the renewal of the public-private partnership and I would be very disappointed if I’m not able to work with the governor and his team … to make that happen in the next six months. I’d love to have that as an All-Star break gift for everybody, really.
“There’s just no there there other than we’re going to get that done. That’s always been one of the things I committed to and I have no intention of not seeing that happen. I know the governor and his folks are just as keen on it as we are.”
In response to a question about the length of Elias’ contract, Angelos defended the Orioles’ policy of not disclosing contract lengths but hinted that Elias and Hyde are working under multi-year extensions.
“A lot of companies don’t talk about their human resources issues and their employment contracts,” Angelos said. “I’m here for the long haul. Mike is here for the long haul. Brandon is here for the long haul. We are all fully vested. We’re not going anywhere and nobody’s a short timer. Nobody is expiring in a year or two years or anything like that … It’s just not great policy for me to talk about people’s personal relationships. We’re all here under contract long-term.”
Angelos said it was correct to assume that if he was here for “the long haul” that meant he wouldn’t sell his family’s majority stake in the team. On January 16th, he said his family owned more than 70 percent of the Orioles.
“There is absolutely no plan to change the partnership group or to change the managing partnership structure that we have,” Angelos said.
He did leave open the possibility of selling a small stake in the team.
“To the extent that other people would say, ‘Hey, I like what they’re doing in Baltimore. I like that Camden Yards is going to be part of a renewed public-private partnership with the city and the state. I want to be part of that.
“All the partners that my family, my father put together 30 years ago, many, not all, some have transitioned out. There’s been a tremendous amount of continuity. You want to have the next generation of people coming in, too and you want them to be excited.
“It would be nice if we could attract strategic people who care about Baltimore, who care about the way we’re doing this now, who care about the example Camden Yards set and want to be part of it. That’s not necessary or a requisite, but we’re open to it. We have no plan to change or transition out of what we have today.
“I would say that there’s not a plan to change the principal ownership or the managing partnership and there would be no reason to.”
Angelos wasn’t as expansive when he talked about the end to the litigation between him, his brother Louis and their mother, Georgia.
“I think those things are distractions, and it’s unfortunate whenever they arise, and all good things going forward now. I’m really confident in what Mike and Brandon are doing and what management team are doing, and I think those things are what they should be in the rearview mirror and receding.”
Angelos doesn’t believe that it’s taken an overly long time to renew the lease. He envisions a complex that could contain housing and retail in addition to the stadium.
“I would just suggest we think about it as a community development economic potential, a public-private partnership,” he said. “A lease is a very narrow part of that public-private partnership. You’ve got that public part where the state and the locality invest public dollars. You’ve got the Orioles investing private dollars. You hopefully will have a commercial real estate development at Camden Yards
“’Live, work, play 365. That’s going to be a huge step forward for the next iteration of Camden Yards. The actual facility use agreement, renewing a 30-year-old document, that’s really a minor sidelight. To the extent that it’s taken long, I don’t think it’s taken long. It’s been a great 30 years where we’ve generated 75 million people and the Ravens have generated another 20 million. When you get 100 million visitors out of a 30-year relationship, I don’t know if that’s taken too long, I think you should be deliberate and thoughtful.”
Angelos is aware of criticisms that the team’s payroll, which is estimated at $64.9 million, 29th of 30 in the majors, is far too low to compete.
“We committed in 2018, 2019 to a rebuild,” Angelos said. “I don’t think we’re rebuilding anymore. I’m glad we were in a full rebuild because it was what was recommended and is the right thing. It was also, we were fortunate that as the world hit a pandemic we were stripped down to that full … That was just good luck in that sense to not have a lot of payroll out there … The teams that had a lot of payroll and were relying on live attendance to pay for that were in a much worse situation. We were much better situated. Was the intention to not invest during the rebuild. We continued to invest…
“Payroll, I think there’s a range there that Mike and his team have to determine. Do I have a role in that? Really only to make sure their recommendations are properly funded. We’re probably not going to have or is any other middle or small-market team going to have the payroll of the Mets or the Dodgers or even the Red Sox, certainly not the Yankees. That’s not an Oriole thing. That’s a small or middle-market team in this economic system. This is not football. This is not basketball.”
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