Talk Focuses on New Potential Buyer for Angels


As today's deadline for a stadium agreement arrived with no apparent renewed talks between the city and the Walt Disney Co., speculation turned toward new potential buyers for the Angels.

Most of it has focused on former major league baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, but government officials Sunday reported another name: real estate developer Donald Koll. Neither could be reached for comment.

Jackie Autry, Angel executive vice president, said she had been approached by Seattle Seahawks owner Ken Behring about a purchase, but she described as negligible the chances he would be the ultimate buyer.

"On a scale of 1 to 10 on whether I'd sell to him, he'd rate about a minus 3," she said. "I don't respect Mr. Behring. I don't respect the way he approached us while the deal [between Disney and Anaheim] was still going."

Two past suitors were deemed unacceptable because they planned to move the club from Anaheim--one elsewhere in Orange County and another to the San Fernando Valley, Autry said.

Autry was the guest of Disney chief executive Michael Eisner at the Mighty Ducks' game Sunday night, and Eisner offered his first comments on the failure to reach an agreement with Anaheim over stadium improvements. "I would like to have worked it out," Eisner said. "It seemed there were other forces maneuvering around. I'm disappointed. I think a lot of other people are disappointed."

Eisner said the company does not intend to resume the talks despite Mayor Tom Daly's comments last week the city is leaving the door open. "Baseball's over," Eisner said. "I think we're just going to concentrate on trying to get the Ducks in the playoffs."

Disney offered to pay 70% of a $100 million renovation to Anaheim Stadium, and major league baseball's approval of Disney's bid to purchase 25% and controlling interest of the club was approved in January, pending an agreement on the stadium within 60 days. If the deadline is not met, Disney can walk away.

City officials contend Disney's proposal would have severely limited the city's ability to move forward with Sportstown Anaheim, a proposed sports, entertainment and retail complex.

Eisner said Disney "offered Anaheim probably the best stadium arrangement of any city in America. If we hadn't been multi-decade residents here, we wouldn't have gone as far as we went as far as what we were going to pay for the team plus the cost of the stadium. It was pretty much an uneconomic deal, but we felt we'd be good community citizens and help the Autrys keep the team in town."

Anaheim Councilman Bob Zemel said Sunday he believes there are several potential buyers who would want to keep the team where it is.

"I've always said, there are a number of people interested in the Angels and keeping them right here in Anaheim, allowing for Sportstown and welcoming football," Zemel said. "There is no reason why the sports community won't look at Anaheim as something they want to invest in."

Times Staff Writers Robyn Norwood and Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this story.

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