Soon, Georgia Angelos, the wife of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, would have been put under oath and questioned.
A river of documents had begun flowing — to lawyers involved in the case, if not to the public — with details including everything from private email conversations to bank records to negotiations over a possible sale of the team.
That was the backdrop to Monday’s abrupt end to the legal fight that erupted within the Angelos family in the wake of the 93-year-old patriarch’s illness and subsequent incapacitation.
As The Baltimore Sun revealed early Monday, the lawsuits filed last year pitting younger son Louis Angelos against his brother John, the Orioles chairman and CEO, and their mother, Georgia, were withdrawn. Attorneys for all three family members, as well as a court-appointed lawyer for Peter Angelos, signed a motion to end the cases.
The terse, four-page document provided no details of why or how the cases were settled. Family members and their lawyers either declined to comment or did not return requests for comment from The Sun.
But the pace of the legal battle had intensified in recent weeks.
Two weeks ago, Louis Angelos, 53, amended his original suit to allege that Georgia, 81, and John Angelos 55, had transferred some $64 million from one of Peter Angelos’ bank accounts. The information appeared to bolster Louis Angelos’ claims that his brother, with his mother’s acquiescence, was working to keep family assets from him, contrary to what Louis Angelos said was his father’s desire that they share the wealth equally.
John and Georgia Angelos have sought to emphasize — he through his attorneys and she in a June statement — that her designation as Peter Angelos’ “attorney in fact” gives her sole authority to manage his assets in the best interests of the family.
The end to the legal battle drew positive reactions from those close to the team and the family, even as questions remained over the ultimate disposition of issues raised by the litigation.
“It’s good that it’s over,” said Jim Palmer, the Oriole pitching great and analyst for the team’s Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. “If you’re a baseball fan, all you care about is are the Orioles going to stay in Baltimore? Are they going to be a viable franchise?”
While those questions went unanswered by the agreement to end the lawsuits, observers noted that the focus can now turn fully toward ongoing matters: a lease for Camden Yards to replace one that expires Dec. 31, a resolution of a legal dispute over MASN rights fees and, perhaps most critical to the Orioles nation, how the team will build on last year’s surprising success to make a stronger play for the 2023 postseason.
“Now the Orioles can move forward without distractions, so it’s probably good for the team,” said John Pica, a former state legislator from Baltimore and former attorney with Peter Angelos’ law firm. “I think it’s great news. I hope all parties were treated favorably.”
The Orioles and Major League Baseball did not respond to requests for comment.
The Maryland Stadium Authority, the landlord for the team’s publicly owned home, did not address the settlement when asked for comment. Its statement said it “looks forward to continuing our work with the Baltimore Orioles toward a new long-term agreement for the beloved ballpark that would offer increased economic benefits and enjoyment to Marylanders.”
The suits raised concerns among fans that a sale of the team could mean it would move. Louis Angelos suggested in one filing that John Angelos, who has a home in Nashville, could relocate the team to Tennessee. John Angelos has said repeatedly the team will not leave Baltimore, and sources told The Sun he wants to maintain his family’s majority ownership, even if a portion of its shares are sold.
With the stroke of an electronic court filing that appeared on the public docket Monday morning, all the charges and countercharges — among them that each side had financially exploited the now-helpless husband and father — were dropped.
The case had largely played out in court filings and private meetings. There was a scheduling conference early on, and two hearings at which warring family members appeared in Baltimore County Circuit Court, but did not testify. Last month, there was a flurry of activity, from meetings with the judge to rulings on earlier disputes and filings.
After an extended back-and-forth over the information that needed to be produced during the discovery phase of the litigation, Louis Angelos’ attorney, Jeffrey E. Nusinov, said in a filing he’d received more than 9,000 pages of documents between Jan. 13 and Jan. 20.
Some of those documents addressed the Angelos law firm, a onetime powerhouse that won billions of dollars in asbestos and tobacco litigation, although it had shrunk with the decline in such cases. Georgia and John Angelos wanted to sell or wind down the firm, against the wishes of Louis Angelos, an attorney. He had been managing the office in his father’s absence.
On Jan. 23, Nusinov filed an amended complaint including what he called the draining of a bank account held by Peter Angelos that contained more than $65 million in 2017, when he first fell ill. It had just $400,000 remaining as of several months ago, the filing said. The complaint also said John Angelos and his mother had increased their ownership stake in the team.
More financial information — particularly as it relates to the Orioles, a potential sale of the club and John Angelos’ compensation — was in the pipeline.
On Jan. 26, Judge Keith Truffer ordered a range of documents to be turned over to Louis Angelos and his lawyers, including from Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, an investment firm Georgia Angelos worked with on a possible sale of the Orioles.
The judge also wanted Louis Angelos’ team to receive any documents and communications regarding a possible sale of the family’s interest in the Orioles or MASN.
Truffer had set a deadline of 14 days, instructing Georgia and John Angelos to “produce financial statements reflecting the financial condition of the Baltimore Orioles Limited Partnership (”BOLP”), which includes the Orioles and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, from January 1, 2017, to the present.”
Further, he wrote, they also would provide documents to show “compensation or other benefits paid to John Angelos from January 1, 2017 to present in connection with his duties for BOLP, including his work for the Baltimore Orioles and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.”
Instead, the cases were dropped via the joint motion.
It says the family’s lawsuits are withdrawn and cannot be refiled, and “the actions in these consolidated proceedings … and all claims, including all counterclaims and defenses, asserted therein be dismissed with prejudice.”
It is unclear what impact that will have now or in the future on the team — worth an estimated $1.3 billion — the law firm and other assets.
Louis Angelos had transferred the law firm, of which Peter Angelos was the sole partner and shareholder, to his name last year, saying state law required another attorney to take the place of a disabled one. However, when Georgia Angelos filed suit in August, she called the transfer outright theft and tantamount to financial elder abuse under a recent state law protecting the assets of a vulnerable person.
At a Jan. 26 hearing, Truffer accepted an agreement on the law firm that lawyers had hashed out, at least in part as they huddled in the hallway before the proceedings began and then after they asked for a recess to continue discussions.
With the ownership of the law firm in dispute, the family members’ lawyers agreed that an outside attorney would be named as conservator of the practice. A lawyer in such a role is given the authority to examine a firm’s books, ongoing cases and liabilities, and perhaps recommend it be sold or dissolved.
William J. Murphy, a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder, was appointed. He is expected to continue his work as conservator despite the end of the Angelos lawsuits.
The Morning Sun
It’s not known what the agreement to withdraw the cases means in terms of Louis Angelos’ role in the family businesses, particularly now that the law firm is no longer under his control. He previously was vice president of the company that manages the Orioles’ ownership group, but said in his lawsuit that John Angelos consolidated control over the team and removed him from that role.
In some ways, a settlement was among the most likely outcomes, as most cases are resolved without going to trial. In November, Truffer ordered the sides into mediation with a retired appeals court judge, Irma S. Raker, for a maximum of 24 hours. In December, Truffer amended his order, requiring a maximum of 80 hours of mediation.
The end of the litigation could restore a measure of privacy to family members who have always guarded it, despite the highly public role they played when Peter Angelos was active. He is a former Baltimore City Council member and candidate for mayor and a major donor to arts, educational and civic institutions, as well as being the majority owner of the Orioles.
But they can never live entirely private lives, one observer noted.
“I think both John and Lou, and Georgia to a certain extent, realize they’re not a private family,” Palmer said.
“Because the Orioles are a state treasure,” he said, quoting something he said Peter Angelos used to say, “they represent everybody.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Lee O. Sanderlin contributed to this article.