The city of Anaheim filed suit against the Angels on Wednesday, asking the Orange County Superior Court for rulings that would overturn the team's name change and could wreck the team's marketing strategy.
In a court hearing Friday, the city will seek a temporary restraining order that would immediately stop the team from using its new name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The lawsuit claims that name violates the stadium lease, charging the name is "nonsensical," deprives the city of the publicity associated with the name Anaheim Angels and "makes a mockery of Anaheim" by putting it "in the tail of a name overshadowed by another city."
The suit also asks that the Angels be required to restore the Anaheim name to prominence in marketing and merchandising, which the city contends would correct another lease violation but could force the team to discard its winter advertising campaign and ruin owner Arte Moreno's plan to generate additional revenue by broadening the Angels' appeal beyond Orange County.
The city plans to defer that issue to a later hearing, spokesman John Nicoletti said, in trying to reverse the name change at once and "leave our legal options open as the case proceeds." The city asks for an unspecified and "currently unknown" amount in compensatory damages.
The attorney representing the Angels, Todd Theodora, said the team has done nothing wrong.
"The Angels have considered carefully their responsibility under the lease," he said. "The team has the confidence that comes with the conviction it is in all respects in full compliance with the lease. The team looks forward to a fair and equitable resolution of the claims and a long and successful relationship with the city."
The city filed its complaint Wednesday afternoon, too late for a hearing today. Judge Peter Polos is scheduled to hear the case Friday morning, and Nicoletti said the city hoped Polos would rule the same day.
Whatever the ruling, it could be overturned in the next phase of the case, a hearing for preliminary injunctions that Nicoletti said could start later this month. That hearing probably would result in rulings on both issues. Another hearing would follow, this one for permanent injunctions, and then the formal trial, although the parties could settle at any time.
In 1996, the city committed $30 million for a stadium renovation, attaching as a condition a name change from California Angels to Anaheim Angels. Disney, then the team owner, later repaid the city $10 million in lost advertising revenues.
The city contends "the national and international exposure and prominence it bargained for" would be lost and "monetary damages would be inadequate" if the court does not order the Angels to cease using the new name and accompanying marketing strategy.
"What they're basically saying is, from this point on, we don't want you to diminish the name Anaheim," said former team counsel and president Richard Brown.
In the suit, the city alleges that Moreno orchestrated a two-part plan for the "conscious, systematic and pervasive elimination" of the Anaheim name. Starting in the 2003-04 off-season, his first as Angel owner, the suit claims Moreno dropped the city name "in virtually every medium where the team name is used" and offers 12 examples, from uniforms and public address announcements to checks and stationery. In the second part of the plan, the suit claims, Moreno would change the team name to the Los Angeles Angels.
In a meeting with team executives, city officials rejected the proposed compromise of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. No team in major league history has used two cities in its name.
The team contends it has not violated the lease provision that requires the team name to "include the name Anaheim therein." The city asks the court to declare the new team name a breach of contract, arguing that no other geographic element was contemplated during lease negotiations and that the use of two city names deviates from "ordinary custom and practice" in Major League Baseball.
The team also argues that the lease contains no provisions specifying how the Angels must use the Anaheim name in marketing, merchandising and publicity. The city contends no such provisions should have been necessary because major league teams typically use the city name and asks the court to require Anaheim to be restored in numerous areas, from ads to souvenirs and contracts and calendars.
Moreno says marketing to Los Angeles and beyond is the way to sustain a top-tier payroll with top-flight players and turn a profit too. If the city prevails in court, he would be forced to choose among marketing the team with an Anaheim label he claims cannot generate sufficient revenue, cutting his high player payroll or selling the team.
The city posted the text of the lawsuit on its website at www.anaheim.net.