Major League Baseball has encouraged Orioles icon Cal Ripken Jr. to join an ownership group if the team — now the subject of a bitter dispute among the family of owner Peter Angelos — is sold, people with knowledge of the league’s interest tell The Baltimore Sun.
Ripken, 61, a Hall of Famer who holds the MLB record for consecutive games played, is arguably the most popular Oriole ever. The league has previously approved groups that included similar hometown heroes, such as former Mariners superstar Ken Griffey Jr., who purchased a stake last year in the Seattle team.
MLB had previously indicated interest in Ripken, a special adviser working directly with Commissioner Rob Manfred on youth programs, becoming part of an Orioles ownership or management group if the club was placed on the market.
But an MLB representative went further this time, saying Thursday that Ripken “has been encouraged to be part of a group.”
The timing is significant because of a lawsuit filed a week ago by Louis Angelos, one of the two sons of the ailing Peter Angelos, against his brother, John, and his mother, Georgia. The suit accuses John Angelos of trying to seize control of the team and other holdings, and says Georgia Angelos believed the team should be sold because her husband’s health had declined and he was “no longer capable of managing his affairs.”
A person outside of MLB who is familiar with the league’s interest in Ripken confirmed it had reached out to the retired player, who maintains his foundation and personal offices in Baltimore and lives in Annapolis.
The two people who talked with The Sun asked to remain anonymous because the team has not gone up for sale and said they didn’t want to undercut Peter Angelos as owner. Ripken, who crafts and oversees youth development programs and has owned minor-league teams, would bring a powerful local presence and baseball expertise to any investor group, those people said.
Ripken declined to comment, said his spokesman, John Maroon.
The MLB official said it’s not unusual for the league to speak casually with people who could become part of future ownership groups.
It could not be determined when the league was in touch with Ripken. As an MLB special adviser, he is in periodic communication with the league.
Ripken played shortstop for the Orioles, and his games played streak ran from 1982 to 1998. But his roots with the team go even deeper: his father and brother had roles with the organization, most notably Cal Sr., who was with the Os for 36 years as a minor league player, then as a scout, coach and manager.
Long before Louis Angelos’ filed his suit in Baltimore County Circuit Court, The Sun reported in 2020 that potential bidders were lining up in the belief that the Orioles could be sold. The club, valued by Forbes at $1.37 billion, has not been on the market since Peter Angelos bought it in 1993.
Former Orioles president and CEO Larry Lucchino told The Sun in 2020 that he was among those approached by a potential buyer about forming an ownership group. Lucchino said Wednesday in an interview that the timing in that previous instance wasn’t right because of the elder Angelos’ illness.
He said it’s still premature to discuss it for the same reason and because of the newly exposed family feud. He declined to talk about whether he’d join such a group if the circumstances were right.
“I remain interested in the fate of the Orioles,” Lucchino said. “Let’s let them try to get this settled down before we talk about an Orioles sale.”
Lucchino is the principal owner of the minor league Worcester Red Sox in Massachusetts. He’s also been president and CEO of the San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox.
Another potential ownership group member is David Rubenstein, a Baltimore native and Baltimore City College high school alumnus who is CEO of The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm based in Washington. In a 2018 discussion in Bethesda hosted by The Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Republican Gov. Larry Hogan elicited laughter from the audience when he suggested to Rubenstein: “One idea, David, might be for you to buy the Orioles.”
“Well, if they’re for sale, I’ll consider it,” Rubenstein replied.
He did not return messages this week from The Sun.
MLB has strict protocols for team sales. If the Angelos family puts the Orioles on the market, bidders would need to submit to background checks and be preapproved before being allowed to receive financial information about the team.
Complicating any baseball team buyers’ picture to a degree, but perhaps benefiting them, is that the neighboring Washington Nationals are exploring a team sale.
“If that goes forward and we have a competitive process, there can be only one winner,” said Marc Ganis president and founder of Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based sports consulting firm that has been involved in a number of team sales. That would mean, Ganis said, that there would be other groups “capitalized and ready to buy a team in that Washington market. So, the process going on with the Nationals could actually be quite beneficial, if the Angelos family chooses to sell.”
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Ganis and others said the Orioles would also command significant interest in their own right.
“I’m confident there are and would be any number of local individuals and groups ready, willing and able to financially support the efforts to retain the Orioles in the city, should that opportunity arise,” said Alan Rifkin, the former Orioles outside counsel. He said he would not comment further out of respect for the Angelos family.
The club may not be winning on the field, but Ganis said it has a number of highly ranked young prospects in its minor-league system and hundreds of millions in state funding available for stadium upgrades. Since the team hasn’t signed a lease with the Maryland Stadium Authority that extends beyond next year, a buyer could have leverage over the terms of a new lease, possibly including the right to relocate the club.
The current lease has a no-relocation clause and the stadium upgrades money is tied to the team staying in Baltimore.
John Angelos has said he is committed to keeping the Orioles in Baltimore, but hasn’t addressed a sale. He did not return messages seeking comment for this article. In a statement Monday, he said his leadership role with the team followed his parents’ “expressed wishes,” and his mother issued a statement Wednesday saying she had “full faith” in him. Also, the stadium authority has said it is continuing to negotiate the new lease with John Angelos.
The Orioles own the majority of a television network — the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network — with the rights to the Orioles’ and Nationals’ games. That’s a major asset, Ganis said, even though the two teams are embroiled in a protracted legal dispute over broadcast fees.
“If the Angelos family chooses to look at options, there are a number of market conditions that enure in their favor,” Ganis said.