Jackie Autry, executive vice president of the Angels, has confirmed months-old speculation that former baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, chief organizer of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, is the leading candidate to buy the team.
The first formal step in the sales process came during last week's winter meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., where baseball's ownership committee gave the Autry family permission to share team financial information with Ueberroth.
"I have begun a due diligence process to look at the financial records of the team in accordance with baseball's requirements," said Ueberroth, a longtime Orange County resident. "I'm pleased that baseball has given me approval to do that."
The Autrys put the team on the market for $130 million last summer and told prospective buyers that a $30 million down payment would be required for 23% of the team, with the rest due within six months of Gene Autry's death. Gene Autry, 87, purchased the expansion Angels for $3 million in 1960.
The Times reported in November that Ueberroth, one of six Angel board members, was the leading candidate to become minority owner and managing general partner of the Angels.
The minority owner also would be responsible for overseeing the club's operations, including all operating costs. Team President Richard Brown said recently that the Angels expect to lose about $10 million from the strike-shortened 1994 season.
There has been speculation that Ueberroth might buy the Angels with Orange County businessman George Argyros, the former Seattle Mariner owner who is believed to be worth about $250 million. But Ueberroth, who lives in Laguna Beach, would not reveal any other members of his investor group.
Ueberroth, who was baseball commissioner from 1984-89, will spend several months negotiating with the Autrys. Jackie Autry said the entire sales process could take "from a couple of months up to a year."
If the Autrys and Ueberroth reach an agreement, the sale would have to be approved by three-fourths of the American League owners and half of the National League owners.
Though owners were forced by Ueberroth to pay a $280-million collusion fine to the players union in the late 1980s, Autry doesn't expect any objection to Ueberroth as the Angels' owner.
"He's had a love for the game for years, and he brings insider knowledge to the sport on and off the field," Autry said. "He's been on our board for about five years, he's familiar with the organization, and Gene and I like him, trust him and respect him very much."
Autry said Ueberroth has indicated that, if he were to become minority owner and managing general partner, he would keep the current Angel front office intact.
A top priority, Autry added, was to bring Ueberroth up to speed on the Angels' negotiations with Anaheim to build a $215-million, 42,000-seat baseball-only stadium on the Anaheim Stadium parking lot.