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Angels Accuse Anaheim of Plot

Times Staff Writer

The city of Anaheim tried -- and failed -- to rewrite its now-controversial stadium lease agreement with the Walt Disney Co. even after the two sides had agreed on terms, the Angels argued in a court filing Tuesday.

The Angels also claimed they would lose “millions of dollars” if forced to stop doing business under its new name -- the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- and dismissed as “frivolous” Anaheim’s contention that the team must use the city’s name prominently in its marketing efforts.

The filing preceded Friday’s Orange County Superior Court hearing, in which Anaheim will seek a temporary injunction to block the name change. The city is scheduled to file its response Thursday.

The Angels submitted what they called “the proverbial smoking gun,” a copy of a lease draft dated April 17, 1996. In a memorandum of understanding dated April 3, 1996, Disney -- then owner of the California Angels -- agreed to change the team name to “include the name Anaheim therein.” That language is identical to what appears in the lease, dated May 14, 1996.

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The draft filed by the Angels includes a handwritten notation -- allegedly on the city’s behalf -- scratching out that language and substituting “the Anaheim Angels.” That alteration, rejected by Disney, is “exactly what [the city] wants from this court,” the Angels argue. In the absence of such language, they contend, they can change their name from Anaheim Angels without breaching the contract.

The city disagrees, arguing neither Anaheim nor Disney ever discussed identifying the team with another geographical area. In previous court declarations, city officials have acknowledged Disney’s unwillingness to approve the restrictive Anaheim Angels name in the lease, and one expert said the draft is far from a smoking gun.

“I don’t think it’s anything dramatically new,” said Carl Bjerre, who teaches contract law at the University of Oregon. “The fact that Disney was wanting some flexibility does not establish that Disney was wanting enough flexibility so as to call the team the Los Angeles Angels.”

The city contends the new team name and marketing strategy, in which the Angels have removed Anaheim from uniforms, merchandise, tickets and advertisements, diminishes its return on its $20-million contribution toward stadium renovations, as covered in the 33-year lease agreement. The lease doesn’t specify how the city name must be used in marketing. Mayor Curt Pringle has said the city “negotiated and paid for a naming right.”

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In their filing Thursday, the Angels argued that “such rights to an MLB [Major League Baseball] team could not have been bought for $20 million in 1996 or now.” In a since-canceled 1997 contract, Edison International bought 20-year naming rights to the stadium -- but not the team -- for $28 million.


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