Angels owner Arte Moreno has started exploring option of selling the team
Arte Moreno, whose 20-year ownership of the Angels started with the most successful decade in franchise history but is mired in a dreadful eight-year run in which the team has failed to make the playoffs, announced Tuesday that he has begun to explore the process of selling the franchise.
“It has been a great honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons,” Moreno, the first Mexican American to own a major sports team in the United States, said in a statement. “As an organization, we have worked to provide our fans an affordable and family-friendly ballpark experience while fielding competitive lineups which included some of the game’s all-time greatest players.
“Although this difficult decision was entirely our choice and deserved a great deal of thoughtful consideration, my family and I have ultimately come to the conclusion that now is the time. Throughout this process, we will continue to run the franchise in the best interest of our fans, employees, players, and business partners.”
Years of poor decisions have fueled the Angels’ struggles despite the team featuring Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Now Arte Moreno is weighing a sale.
Moreno does not have a potential buyer lined up, with one person familiar with his thinking but not authorized to speak publicly about it likening Tuesday’s announcement to the owner putting a “for-sale sign on the lawn.”
Moreno began considering the possibility of selling the team in recent months, the person said. Moreno doesn’t have a succession plan. He has three adult children but none have been involved in the running of the team or were interested in taking over.
Moreno bought the Angels for $183.5 million in 2003. In March, Forbes valued the team at $2.2 billion.
The sale price could well be driven higher by the opportunity to own one of the four major league teams in the two largest markets in the sport.
A new owner could expand, modernize and grant autonomy to the Angels’ front office. Moreno has declined to hire a president of baseball operations, hired three first-time general managers and hired a manager rather than let his general manager do it.
The Angels played under a new manager in 2019, a new manager in 2020 and a new general manager in 2021. They fired their manager in 2022 and figure to have a new manager in 2023.
However, a new owner would inherit a raft of issues. The team has not won a postseason game since 2009, meaning two of the game’s greatest stars — Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani — never have won a playoff game.
Ohtani has repeatedly expressed his discouragement, and a new owner would have to convey an impressive vision to persuade him to remain in Anaheim rather than leave in free agency after next season.
MLB Pipeline ranks the Angels’ minor league system as the worst in baseball.
The losing has taken its toll: Attendance is projected to be 2.5 million this season. In every previous full season under Moreno’s ownership, the Angels had sold at least 3 million tickets.
The Angels have a lease at Angel Stadium through 2029, with options through 2038. However, there is no plan to upgrade or replace Angel Stadium, which opened in 1966 and had its last major renovation in 1996.
Moreno bought the team from the Walt Disney Co. shortly after the Angels won their only World Series championship in 2002 and was praised for lowering beer prices in Angel Stadium and his hefty free-agent investments that brought 2004 American League most valuable player Vladimir Guerrero, 2005 Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colón and pitcher Kelvim Escobar to Anaheim.
Those players — along with several holdovers from the 2002 team and newcomers such as pitcher Jered Weaver and shortstop Erick Aybar — helped fuel a highly successful run in which the Angels won five AL West titles and reached the American League Championship Series twice from 2004 to 2009.
But a 7-6 win over the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 2009 ALCS in Anaheim would be the Angels’ last playoff victory. The Angels have made the playoffs only once since, in 2014, when they were swept in a three-game Division Series by the Kansas City Royals.
They are on their way to their seventh consecutive losing season and eighth in a row without a playoff berth.
It hasn’t been for lack of spending. The Angels have been among baseball’s top 10 spending teams in every year Moreno owned them, but they haven’t spent their money wisely.
Moreno was the driving force behind the 10-year, $240-million deal for Albert Pujols before 2012, the five-year, $125-million deal for Josh Hamilton before 2013 and the seven-year, $245-million deal for Anthony Rendon before 2020, and not one could help deliver a playoff win.
Pujols, 32 when he signed with the Angels, was hampered by lower-body injuries and age and was a shadow of the slugger who put up Hall of Fame numbers in St. Louis for 11 years. He was released in May of last year.
Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP with the Texas Rangers, had a history of substance abuse problems and suffered a relapse in spring 2015. He was traded to the Rangers that April, the Angels eating $61 million of his contract.
Rendon has played just 103 games in the last two seasons, suffering a season-ending hip injury in July 2021 and a season-ending wrist injury this June.
If the Angels decide to move Shohei Ohtani before the MLB trade deadline on Tuesday, it would be the biggest loss in a season defined by failure.
Moreno’s refusal to exceed the luxury tax threshold prevented the Angels from competing for several free agents who could have been difference-makers for them, including pitcher Gerrit Cole, third baseman Adrián Beltré and first baseman Mark Teixeira.
Moreno instructed then-general manager Billy Eppler to fire manager Brad Ausmus after the 2019 season so he could hire longtime favorite Joe Maddon, who had spent more than three decades with the organization before moving on to manage the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs.
Moreno then fired Eppler after the 2020 season — only a few months after giving Eppler an extension through the 2021 season — and hired Perry Minasian as the team’s GM.
Moreno approved Minasian’s decision to fire Maddon in early June, with the team near the end of an eventual 14-game losing streak, and Maddon has not spoken to the owner since his dismissal. In the last five years, the Angels have cycled through four managers. Phil Nevin, their former third base coach, took over managerial duties after Maddon was fired.
“This opportunity I’ve been given, a lot of it goes through Arte,” the interim manager told reporters in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the Angels are in the middle of a four-game series against the Rays. “For the owner to entrust you with the players and his team, it means a lot to me. He’s been great to me. He’s been a great owner for his organization and still is. The six division titles in 20 years. I know people like to focus on the last few years, but he’s been really good to the community. He’s done a lot of great things for this organization. I just think about him and his family, because this is a tough day for him.”
Trout told reporters that he was still processing the news of the potential sale, that he appreciates that the Moreno family has taken care of him and that he “wants to win.” He also said it was too early to list specifics of what he would want from a new owner.
“I’ve been with the Angels my whole career, and we had some great times with Arte,” Trout said. “He took care of me and my family. I’m appreciative of all he’s done for me, but I guess he’s moving on. Since Day 1, they took care of me and my family and trusted me. They took a risk, for sure. Any time they sign you to a big contract, they believe in you, so I’m thankful.”
Mike Scioscia, the manager when the Angels won the World Series, said he could see Trout and Ohtani staying in Anaheim. “It doesn’t surprise me that those guys, as loyal as they are, would wanna ride this one out and turn this around and give OC a chance for another flag,” Scioscia said to KCBS’ Jim Hill.
Moreno, 76, is the oldest of 11 children of Maria and Arturo Moreno, who immigrated from Mexico. He grew up in Tucson, graduating from high school in 1966, was drafted into the U.S. Army and fought in the Vietnam War.
After returning from the war, Moreno attended the University of Arizona, graduating with a degree in marketing in 1973. He took a job in the advertising industry and was hired by a Phoenix-based billboard company called Outdoor Systems in 1984.
Moreno eventually became the company’s president and chief executive, and the company’s stock soared after he took it public in 1996. Moreno sold Outdoor Systems to Infinity Broadcasting for $8 billion in 1998.
A love of baseball prompted Moreno to join 17 other investors in a 1986 purchase of the minor league Salt Lake Trappers in 1986. The group owned the team until 1992.
Moreno was unsuccessful in his 2001 attempt to purchase controlling interest in the Arizona Diamondbacks, but two years later, his purchase of the Angels was approved by Major League Baseball.
Angels owner Arte Moreno is exploring selling the team, which gives the team a chance to keep Shohei Ohtani beyond the 2023 season.
In 2005, Moreno announced the team would be called the Los Angeles Angels, the better to emphasize to potential advertisers and sponsors that the team played in the second-largest media market in the United States.
There are close to 20 million people in the Los Angeles media market; the city of Anaheim is home to 350,000 people.
The city sued, citing a stadium lease clause that required the team name to “include the name Anaheim therein.” Moreno said the full team name would be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
An Orange County Superior Court jury ruled in his favor, but the awkward two-city name prompted anger in Orange County and ridicule elsewhere. Ultimately, a judge said Moreno could use the name “Los Angeles Angels” for marketing purposes, and the “of Anaheim” suffix eventually disappeared.
But, aside from throwback and City Connect uniforms, the team wore “Angels” on their jerseys, not “Los Angeles.” The Angels’ charitable foundation focused on efforts in Orange County.
The Angels said in a statement that the organization has taken on Galatioto Sports Partners as financial advisors for the potential sale process.
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