A conversation with Peter Angelos

Peter G. Angelos is a longtime lawyer, developer and principal owner of the Baltimore Orioles.

He represented Maryland in a lawsuit against the tobacco industry, signing a contract that eventually would have brought him more than $1 billion. Angelos eventually settled for $150 million, to be paid over five years.

The son of Greek immigrants, Angelos is a former Baltimore City Councilman, and he continues to be a major operative in Democratic Party politics. He is a longtime acquaintance of Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

His development activities are storied, and he has been a major force in shaping the look of downtown's west side. He owns four office buildings along Charles Street, including One Charles Center, the 23-story tower that is undergoing a $15 million renovation.

Two years ago, Angelos forfeited exclusive negotiating rights to develop a prime piece of Inner Harbor property near the Baltimore Convention Center. He had planned to build a $150 million Grand Hyatt hotel there.

The site -- bordered by Pratt, Paca and Camden streets, with Eutaw Street dividing the property -- was proposed last week for the location of a 24-story, 750-room Hilton hotel. A 200,000-square-foot world headquarters for Catholic Relief Services also would be located on the property, now a city-owned parking lot.

The unsolicited proposal's backers are Robert L. Johnson, the founder and former owner of Black Entertainment Television, and Quadrangle Development Corp., a Washington firm headed by Robert M. Gladstone.

Johnson is working to bring major-league baseball back to Washington, despite opposition from Angelos.

He declined to discuss the Hilton proposal for the record in this interview. But Angelos did share his views on downtown development, his baseball team, tobacco litigation and state politics.

What is your vision of downtown Baltimore? What do you expect it to be in, say, 10 years?

Over the next 10 years, dramatic and positive changes will take place in the downtown area of our city.

Thousands of suburban residents, as well as newcomers, will decide to reside in the downtown area. These new residents will require the construction of thousands of apartments, expanded commercial facilities -- including all kinds of retail shops, restaurants and entertainment opportunities.

Baltimore will become an exciting and cosmopolitan city in the not-too-distant future, and, without question, will continue to be a major American city culturally and economically.

What is your perspective on the biotech effort under way in East Baltimore and the Johns Hopkins University project, which is expected to create 8,000 jobs?

The Hopkins biotech initiative is the most promising economic development occurring in this city, as well as in the state, in the last 20 years. The 8,000 jobs are only the beginning.

Hopkins is the finest medical institution in the United States. I predict the biotech center will expand far beyond present expectations because of its connection with Hopkins.

When will renovations on One Charles Center be completed? What new tenants are coming?

Renovations to One Charles Center will be completed by the end of January. New tenants include law, architectural and accounting firms.

What about the Fidelity and Deposit building next door? There was talk of upscale housing going in there. Is that still the case?

Plans have been completed to convert the F&D building to upscale apartments, although other uses are still being considered.

Earlier this year, you allowed an option to expire on the Rouse-controlled property at One Light Street at the Inner Harbor. Why?

At that time, we were unable to interest a national hotel chain in partnering with us to develop a major convention center hotel. The inability to do so was connected with the economic slowdown, both locally and nationally, and the belief of the hotel companies that there are presently sufficient hotel rooms in the city except when there is a large convention.

They didn’t feel this occasional demand justified their involvement.

Do you foresee a 1,000-room convention center hotel coming into the Inner Harbor?

I don’t believe that will happen unless the city provides the tens of millions of dollars necessary to build a hotel of that size.

As a person who is known to support unions, please discuss your involvement in the recent Major League Baseball labor talks as part of management’s negotiating team.

Andy McPhail, president of the Chicago Cubs, and I served on the Negotiating Committee, along with the President of Baseball, Bob Dupuy, in the negotiations with the Players' Association. We represented the baseball unions and collaborated to reach a collective-bargaining agreement with the players.

We feel the new agreement will serve to stabilize club payrolls and help bring to an end repeated price increases in the cost of tickets and concession prices to our fans.

We have made a positive move forward, but work needs to be done in the future.

Are there plans to significantly increase the Orioles' payroll for the 2003 season?

The Orioles intend to acquire additional players in the postseason to improve the team's offense and pitching. We intend to be competitive in the new season, and we expect our young players to be especially productive with the experience they have gained from last season.

How would a new baseball team in Washington or Northern Virginia affect the Orioles, in a business sense?

We believe that another MLB franchise literally next door to the Orioles would have a severe negative effect on the revenue streams of the Oriole franchise. We cannot afford to share those dollars with another team and retain the financial ability to compete with the other teams in our division.

Similarly, a team in the District or Northern Virginia competing against the Orioles would have the same revenue deficiencies. Two teams in such proximity simply won’t work. No one is suggesting that the St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox should be confronted with teams competing next door. Why the Orioles?

Do you have any plans to sell the Orioles in the near future?

There is no plan to sell the Orioles.

You started off being owed more than $1 billion in Maryland’s settlement with the tobacco companies. You wound up with $150 million. Are you satisfied with the final outcome of the settlement?

The agreement between our firm and the state when we were chosen to represent Maryland in its case against the tobacco industry was the result of a competitive bidding process engaged in by a number of law firms across the U.S.

Our office was selected as having submitted the bid most advantageous to the state. Our bid provided that:

We would completely fund the litigation, which was expected to cost anywhere from $10 million to $30 million.

We would perform all the legal work necessary -- including all trials and appeals -- to a conclusion of the case.

If successful, we would receive 25 percent of the recovery and be reimbursed a portion of our expenses.

If we were unsuccessful, and no recovery was realized by the state, we would receive no fee and no reimbursement of the millions of dollars we had expended on behalf of the state.

In other words, the state took no risk and could only profit if we prevailed.

As we all know now, we did prevail. The state will, over a 25-year period, receive approximately $5 billion from the tobacco industry.

Notwithstanding the facts above, the state refused to honor its contract and claimed the fee was too great and proceeded, with the blatant and brazen complicity of the media, to distort the facts of the dispute to vilify and demean our office and its legitimate position.

Moral of the story: Do not do business with tin-horned politicians, and keep away from the news media, whose systematic distortion of the truth seems to be the chief reason for their existence.

You were briefly on the Baltimore City Council in the early '60s. Any plans to re-enter politics?


As a longtime Democratic supporter, how do you assess Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s gubernatorial loss?

Disappointing. Nonetheless, we should support the governor-elect and hope he has a successful and effective administration.

Who is leading Maryland’s Democrats now?

Presently, I don’t think anyone is. Nevertheless, I believe Duncan, O’Malley, Ruppersberger, Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, Sheila Dixon, Joan Pratt and Pete Rawlings and others are all highly competent individuals, who I am certain will provide the leadership needed in the future.

Todd Beamon of SunSpot Staff contributed to this report.Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun