Answering questions about the Orioles' sale - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Answering questions about the Orioles’ sale

Photo by Lev Radin/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

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The announced sale of the Orioles from the Angelos family to a group led by David Rubenstein means that the team will have its fifth owner in seven decades in Baltimore. Marty Conway, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, teaches courses in sports leadership and has worked for both the Orioles and Texas Rangers.

He discussed a number of topics related to the sale. This interview has been edited for brevity.

Were you surprised by the timing of the sale?

“Yes, I don’t think anyone was expecting it two weeks prior to spring training. There would be a lot of other times if you look at the calendar when you said, ‘this may naturally occur or you want it to occur.’ John [Angelos] wasn’t in control of this that the investment community really knew about this, and there were no secrets out there. Once that happened, both sides had to spring into action.”

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Did you think John Angelos was going to sell the Orioles?

“Regardless of what John was saying in his various press avails, in the investment community in New York and Washington, it was the worst kept secret.

“As you were observing the MASN scenario, no longer going to be in any litigation or litigation, all those things were an indication that they were tying up these loose ends to be in a position to do this.

“I personally have thought for the past three years and maybe five years, really what John was looking for, he was looking for someone to come in and take a minority stake and perhaps allow him to remain the managing partner for some period of time until Peter passed, and that would accelerate. Apparently, that couldn’t happen. Somebody wasn’t going to come in for one-third or 40 percent of the team and allow John to remain in that managing partner role. He had to give that up.

“There was a cash need for the franchise. In the past, Peter would reach into his sources to supply additional money for payroll. That just wasn’t possible.

“It ties up the franchise in ways that prevents you from really doing anything long-term. This team knows direction-wise for player payrolls and other reasons who’s going to invest and how much you’re going to invest and where you’re going to get it from.”

What do you know about David Rubenstein as a prospective owner?

“From a standpoint of owning a sports team, I think he’s going to rely upon several key people to get him up to speed quickly. He’s a brilliant businessman, but he will need a lot of help with the nuances of running a major league franchise, and the Baltimore market in particular.

“From a standpoint of his philanthropy, he’s been very generous with his foundation. What do we know about him as a philanthropist and as a person, I think there’s a track record. As a sports owner, we really don’t know anything.”

Do you think he’ll be a visible owner?

“He’s been comfortable [on television], but he’s been the one asking the questions. He will understand the media business really well, but he will now be in the other chair, which is responding to the questions. He’s going to have to be comfortable with responding to questions, particularly in Baltimore because there’s such a sensitivity to access to the ownership for sports teams in Baltimore.”

What’s the future of MASN? Will it be sold to Ted Leonsis?

“Ironically, the Orioles and MASN were in a better position compared to other teams, and I say that because they owned and operated the network, and they got all the revenue from it.

“Teams that had sold their rights to a third party found that third party saying, ‘Hey, we can’t afford to do that anymore.’ What MASN and the Orioles and the Nats were doing, they were shrinking the size of the operation to account for the less revenue coming in. In some respects, they’re not in a bad position because they own this network, and they own the rights to two teams.

“The challenge and the problem for them is that they had this parity clause in the contract which essentially said whatever we do for Baltimore, we have to do for Washington. The solution is a portioning of the broadcast rights to each team, removing that parity clause.

“Where Ted comes along and Monumental Sports, he owns that cable network, but then he also owns the rights to stream those games on Monumental streaming app as well. He’s in a position to do something for each franchise if that’s what they want to do.”

What are the biggest changes that fans will see under new ownership?

That’s something that the new ownership group needs to think clearly about. This is probably not going to be approved prior to Opening Day, maybe close to Opening Day. It certainly might be a time frame that you can shoot for.

“You would want to look at something that’s very fan-centric, that means something to the fans as some of the first moves. Is that the signing of a player potentially to a longer-term agreement? That’s something that the fans would always want. Or is it something inside the stadium, at the ballpark, at games, ticket pricewise that gives people a sense of access, new access or new hope or new opportunity. I think they have to think long and hard of the strategy of, ‘What is the first thing we want fans to see from this new organization?’”

How would you rate the Angelos family as owners?

“I think it’s a net positive for the ownership while they were here. People forget that back in ’93, this team was in bankruptcy court, and Peter Angelos bought it for the civic nature and put it in local hands. He felt very strongly about that.

“As a person and as a family, Peter and his family took care of people, front office people. There are a number of stories that aren’t told, medical bills, access to the best medical care, a number of things like that he and the family did connected to the Orioles without hesitation.

“Those bronze statues out in left field. Those were his. He felt strongly about it. He committed his own resources to do it. Those are things that you have to put on the ledger of Peter and the family’s contribution to the franchise.

“They were the longest holding owners of the team since the team arrived in Baltimore and sometimes I think it’s just a matter of things got stale with ownership. If there are negatives around it, there are plenty of things that people could pick at and detract, I think on balance, if you look at what his contribution and the family’s contribution was to the franchise, and to Baltimore, it has to be a net positive despite what the recency issues may have been in the last several years.”

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