In his wife’s telling, Peter Angelos thought his law firm, famed for winning billions of dollars on behalf of victims of asbestos and tobacco, shouldn’t outlive him. With Angelos incapacitated by declining health, the firm was living on its past and it was time to let it go.
In the view of the son who has been managing the firm, the decades-old practice still makes profits, and dissolving it would not only stop the flow of revenue, but leave the Baltimore firm’s clients and longtime employees in a lurch.
Perhaps a Baltimore County jury will decide between these two versions. That, at least, is what Louis Angelos, son of the renowned lawyer and owner of the Orioles, is seeking in the latest filing in the family’s legal feud.
Louis Angelos, 53, on Wednesday filed a response to a lawsuit by his mother, Georgia Angelos, 80, that alleged he had sold the law firm to himself in an act so egregious it was tantamount to financial elder abuse of the ailing family patriarch. The filing also asked for a jury trial in county circuit court.
Louis Angelos said in the response that he moved the firm’s stock to his name because in the four years since Peter Angelos became unable to manage his affairs, his mother had failed to transfer the practice to a qualified attorney.
As prominent as the personal injury law firm has been — it handled the state of Maryland’s litigation against the tobacco industry, for instance — Peter Angelos ran it with no partners and the stable of lawyers work as employees of the firm.
Louis Angelos’ response disputed a range of claims made in Georgia Angelos’ suit, including that Peter Angelos didn’t want the law firm to outlive him.
The filing also denied that Peter Angelos had a particularly strained relationship with his younger son while respecting older son John’s “instincts and self-discipline.” Nor had Louis Angelos “bristled” at the Orioles’ 2018 hiring of General Manager Mike Elias, nor did he seek to interfere with Elias’ staffing decisions, the response said.
The filing also takes issue with the parts of Georgia Angelos’ suit that attribute to John Angelos the Orioles’ recent successes, such as developing one of the sport’s top farm systems, which is in turn producing exciting players who have helped turned the team’s fortunes around.
“The transparently ghost-written self-promotion by John sets forth matters of opinion rather than statements of fact, and requires no answer,” Louis Angelos’ filing stated, a sentiment repeated five times, with some variation, in the 14-page filing.
Adam F. Streisand, who represents Georgia Angelos, disputed that characterization.
“No one ghostwrites anything for me,” said Streisand, a Los Angeles-based attorney who has represented other families involved in disputes over professional teams. “Lou’s attempt to impugn my ethics with his rank speculation is as farcical as all the rest of the fantasies and conspiracy theories he’s peddling.”
Louis Angelos’ attorney, Jeffrey E. Nusinov, said it is the other side that is dealing in distortion.
“The response denies the continued gross distortion of reality and addresses John’s shameless self-promotion,” he said.
The legal battle began in June, when Louis Angelos sued his mother and brother. He accused John Angelos of trying to seize control of the Orioles and other assets of their father, and of browbeating Georgia Angelos into going along.
Both his suit and that of Georgia Angelos revealed the desire of family members to sell the Orioles, although The Baltimore Sun has reported John Angelos wants to retain his family’s majority control of the club, possibly selling only a portion of what they own.
There have also been heated disputes over what to do with the law firm and Peter Angelos’ real estate portfolio. Georgia Angelos said she wanted to wind down or sell the law firm, but that Louis Angelos had resisted her efforts.
On June 8, his mother’s lawsuit said, Louis Angelos sold the firm to himself with a promissory note for a price to be determined later. The following day, Louis Angelos filed his lawsuit.
Georgia Angelos has argued that her husband designated her as his “attorney-in-fact” to act on his behalf, and that she is “in firm control of her faculties and firmly in control of her fiduciary responsibilities” to Peter Angelos.
She said in her subsequent suit she enlisted the help of a family friend, Kenneth Feinberg, a well-known lawyer and mediator who had administered the more than $7 billion fund for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and he had identified a potential buyer for the law firm. She also said she has retained Goldman Sachs and the law firm Jones Day to assist in the sale of the Orioles.
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“Lou’s response continues to fail to recognize the simple fact that his father gave his mother the legal authority to act,” said Jeffrey M. Lenkov, who also represents Georgia Angelos.
Georgia Angelos’ suit cites a new Maryland law, the Statute Against Financial Exploitation of susceptible and older adults or “SAFE Act,” that took effect Oct. 1.
According to Michael W. Davis, a Columbia-based attorney who advocated for its passage, the law clarifies who has standing to sue in a case involving a vulnerable adult and adds a provision to seek damages, including lawyer’s fees. In the past, he said, not being able to win legal fees deterred some from being able to pursue a case of financial exploitation, he said.
“It’s ironic,” Davis said, that apparently among the first cases to use the law is one involving the wealthy Angelos family.
He said he is unaware of any tracking of how often the law has been used. It’s unclear whether many lawyers even know of this new tool, Davis said.
“As an observer,” he said of the Angelos legal battle, “it’s a fascinating case to watch.”