In his first public media availability in 332 days, Orioles CEO and chairman John Angelos said he would have another by “next week,” offering to reporters that he would “put all your questions” to bed.
Should that actually take place, there certainly remain several to be asked after Monday, when Angelos pointed to the fact it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day to deflect questions about the state of the organization.
The issue shouldn’t have been that the Orioles chose to announce a $5 million pledge to the local nonprofit CollegeBound Foundation on a federal holiday, but rather that Angelos — speaking publicly for the first time in 11 months — seemingly expected the focus to remain on that at a time his organization is facing a deadline to extend its lease and his family is engaged in legal in-fighting.
Timing, though, is not an established strength. When Angelos last spoke with local media before Monday, it was in February 2022 after the Orioles announced Paul McCartney would play a June concert at Camden Yards. Angelos’ video call came amid the threat of a delayed baseball season during the Major League Baseball owners’ lockout, which they voted unanimously to enact.
Days before that concert, Louis Angelos’ inciting lawsuit included claims that his brother could move the Orioles or sell them. On Monday, John Angelos fielded a question about the Orioles’ lease and said the team would remain in Baltimore. He was then asked about his family’s future owning the club and did not offer an answer, but a lecture.
He opened his response to a generic question about the state of the team’s negotiations with the Maryland Stadium Authority regarding a long-term lease with a chuckle, saying he would respond but preferred not to discuss similar matters. “I think Dr. King would appreciate that, if we talked about what’s going on in the community a little bit more,” he said.
Angelos then reiterated the team is “never going anywhere,” variations of which he has said, out loud or in statements, several times over the past three-plus years. He notably compared the Orioles’ place in Baltimore to that of Fort McHenry in the Inner Harbor for the first time almost 40 months ago. The NFL’s Ravens had 60 left on their lease at neighboring M&T Bank Stadium when they agreed to an extension with the MSA earlier this month. Last year, the state approved the use of $1.2 billion in public funds for upgrades to both Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium, and the Orioles’ 2022 rent at Camden Yards was reduced by the cost to alter the ballpark’s outfield dimensions.
“The Orioles will continue to work with the Stadium Authority and [MSA Chairman] Tom Kelso and the next [gubernatorial] administration,” Angelos said Monday. “I count [Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore] as my personal friends, and we’re gonna get this done for just about every reason.”
It remains unknown, though, whether the team intends to exercise its option on a one-time, five-year extension of the current lease, the deadline for which is two weeks from Wednesday, or let that pass and leave the agreement’s expiration as the end of this year. That’s a question Angelos can answer next week if he follows through on his offer to reporters amid a contentious answer to Monday’s second query, centered on his future leading the organization amid the ongoing legal dispute pitting he and his mother, Georgia, against his brother over the family’s assets.
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Despite saying “I’m going to answer your question” both 30 seconds into and halfway through what became a five-minute diatribe, Angelos never did.
“I’m very transparent,” Angelos said. “In fact, I would invite you and all your colleagues next week, not on Martin Luther King Day, you can come back in this building, you can meet me in this office. I’ll take you down on the third floor, and I’ll show you the financials of the Orioles. I’ll show you the governance of the Orioles. I’ll show you everything you want to know, and I’ll put all your questions [to bed]. But today, on MLK Day, I’m not answering any of those questions.”
That experience, if it ever happens, would elicit its share of questions. The Angelos family owns 70% of the Orioles, Angelos shared Monday. It has little incentive to sell any of that as long as his father, principal owner Peter Angelos, is alive; the 93-year-old patriarch has been medically incapacitated for several years, leading to John Angelos becoming the leader of the Orioles while Louis Angelos took over the family law firm. Selling the team while Peter Angelos is alive would subject him to steep capital gains taxes, which would be eliminated in a sale after his death. In a lawsuit, Georgia Angelos claimed Peter Angelos wanted her to sell the team upon his death so she “could enjoy the great wealth they had amassed together.” Any question related to ongoing lawsuits might be difficult for Angelos to answer, but the situation elicits more for him to face should he meet with reporters next week.
Relatedly, the Orioles’ dispute with the Washington Nationals over the regional Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is reportedly creating issues for the Nationals’ attempts to sell. Angelos is also the CEO of MASN, which the teams share ownership of with Baltimore holding a majority. The Orioles and Nationals have a lengthy legal dispute regarding the network’s television rights fees, with an arbitrator in 2019 ruling MASN owed the Nationals $105 million before the network filed an appeal that is still waiting to be heard. MLB has since gotten involved to help facilitate future payments, The Washington Post reported.
Angelos made clear he didn’t want to talk about subjects “between the lines” Monday, though unprompted he noted the Orioles’ top-ranked minor league system and 31-game improvement from 2021 to 2022. But his rebuke prevented questions about the 2023 team, notably those related to a payroll that Cot’s Baseball Contracts projects to be the second-lowest opening day figure of MLB’s 30 teams. Since Angelos became the Orioles’ MLB-designated control person in his father’s place in October 2020, Baltimore has not signed a free agent to a guaranteed multi-year deal and has made only one player-for-player trade in which it acquired the more experienced player.
At the end of the regular season, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said the Orioles would see a “significant” increase in payroll this offseason. Their projected opening-day payroll of $64.5 million is almost 150% of last year′s tally, though it’s improving on a mark of $43.7 million that was the lowest in the majors and Baltimore’s lowest in the 21st century. Elias was hired in November 2018, and only once between his introductory news conference and Monday had either John or Louis Angelos had a public availability at Camden Yards. The team has never stated how long Elias’ contract is.
It’s just another question for Angelos to face “next week,” whenever that is.