Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein is in talks to acquire the Baltimore Orioles, according to a report from Gillian Tan of Bloomberg. The O’s are currently owned by the Angelos family.
It’s unclear at this point what stage the talks are at or if any kind of deal is close at this time. It also doesn’t seem like Rubenstein is the only person pursuing the club, as the report states that he is “among suitors pursuing a transaction.” Whether the Angelos family has pursued this or have merely been approached by prospective buyers isn’t clear, but there has been plenty of uncertainty in recent years about the future of the franchise.
Peter Angelos, now 94, was the principal investor of a group that purchased the franchise in 1993. After he collapsed in 2017 due to the failure of his aortic valve, larger roles were taken up by his wife Georgia and sons John and Lou. In June of 2022, reports emerged of infighting between the family about control of the club, with MLB approving John as the club’s “control person” in 2020. Multiple lawsuits were filed and the reporting of the legal battle revealed that Georgia had hired Goldman Sachs to look into a possible sale of the club. In February of this year, it was reported that the family members had reached an agreement to drop their lawsuits against each other. “I would say that there’s not a plan to change the principal ownership or the managing partnership and there would be no reason to,” John said on the matter in February.
Amid all of the drama over the ownership situation, there has also been an ongoing situation regarding Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The club’s lease on the facility runs through 2023. They had an opportunity to extend that for five years but chose in February not to do so. The hope was that they could work out a longer deal that would allow them to take advantage of a new Maryland law and borrow $600M for stadium upgrades. Both John and Maryland Governor Wes Moore have made public statements expressing optimism about getting a new deal done.
In August it was reported that John was trying to leverage the stadium negotiations into acquiring public land. He reportedly envisioned developing a mixed-use area with commercial and retail spaces, emulating to The Battery and Truist Park where the Braves play in Georgia.
In September, John and Gov. Moore announced a new 30-year lease between the club and the state, though this was actually misleading. Reporting from the next day revealed that they had merely signed a memorandum of understanding, which was legally non-binding. The lease is still set to expire on December 31 and recent reporting has suggested the two sides may have to sign a short-term extension of a year or perhaps even go month-to-month, per Hayes Gardner of The Baltimore Sun, while working out a longer deal.
In addition to all of that, the club has made almost no long-term investments in any players. The O’s haven’t signed a free agent to a multi-year deal since March of 2018, with was Alex Cobb’s four-year deal. Since then, the only contracts longer than one year the club has given out have been two-year extensions to John Means and Félix Bautista, both players that were already under club control and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. For much of that time, the club was in rebuilding mode. But even as they have returned to contention in the last two years, including winning the AL East with 101 wins in 2023, they have yet to make any kind of commitment to anything down the road.
Rubenstein, 74, is the co-founder and co-chairman of the Carlyle Group, a private equity company. He was born in Baltimore and Bloomberg estimates his net worth as $4.6 billion, though Forbes comes in below that at $3.6 billion. Forbes also currently values the Orioles franchise at $1.713 billion, about 10 times more than the $173M price point when it was purchased in 1993.
To this point, it’s unclear if Rubenstein actually has a chance of acquiring the club or if he would approach any of the aforementioned issues differently. But if he were able to seal the deal and change the way the club operates, that would obviously be a franchise-altering development. It could also have ripple effects outside the O’s since they have an ongoing dispute with the Nationals over MASN and rights fees dating back to the Nats moving from Montreal to Washington in 2005. The Lerner family has been trying to sell the Nats in recent years but that MASN dispute has reportedly been a significant obstacle in doing so.
Source: Yard Baker