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Anaheim Could Still Sue the Angels for Damages

Times Staff Writer

Although the Anaheim Angels name is almost certainly lost, the city of Anaheim could pursue its longshot lawsuit against the team, hoping to win hundreds of millions of dollars in damages in a jury trial, sports industry analysts said Monday.

The Anaheim City Council meets today to discuss its legal strategy, four days after Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos refused for the second time to stop the team from calling itself the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Polos said that in a trial, Anaheim probably would be unable to prove that the Angels had broken their stadium lease by changing their name.

A jury would not have the authority to reverse the name change, said Sheldon Eisenberg, an intellectual property and entertainment litigation specialist who has followed the case. But Anaheim could proceed to trial, hoping a jury would find the Angels guilty and award damages that far exceed the $20 million the city paid in the contract at issue.

Industry insiders, used to putting a value on corporate naming rights for stadiums, arenas and bowl games, struggled to put a value on Anaheim’s potential loss.

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At first glance, one expert suggested $500,000 a year, or $12.5 million for the 25 years left on the lease. The expert -- Wasserman Marketing Group director Jeff Knapple, who negotiated the Staples Center naming rights deal -- based his estimate on the idea that many media references to the Angels drop the city name anyway.

But, upon considering the replacement of Anaheim with Los Angeles in standings and scoreboards in newspapers, on television and on the Internet, Knapple offered a range of $10 million to $15 million a year -- or $250 million to $375 million.

The exposure of the Anaheim name is “very minute” in one box score or television listing but cumulative over a season -- and thus highly subjective in value, said Eric Wright, vice president of Joyce Julius and Associates, a Michigan company that translates media exposure into dollar figures. Wright valued Anaheim’s exposure at $10,000 to $25,000 a day -- or $45 million to $112.5 million over the balance of the lease, based on a six-month season.

The wildly divergent estimates reflect in part the nature of the exposure. During an Angel broadcast, Anaheim might never be featured, but the city name might be mentioned repeatedly.

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“No advertising could be bought in that scope,” said Mark Weiner, chief executive of Delehaye, a Connecticut public relations and marketing research firm. “You buy one minute. You don’t buy two or three hours.”

The city argues that its investment was intended to help drive tourism. Disney’s two theme parks attracted 19 million people last year, according to Amusement Business, and the Angels drew a record 3.5 million people.

Surveys show more Midwest residents know that the Angels are in Anaheim than that Disneyland is in Anaheim, Wright said. But, said Daniel Rascher, director of the sport management program at the University of San Francisco, “How many fewer dollars are going to flow into Anaheim because its name is not in the Columbus Dispatch?”


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