Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno exploring possible sale of team

The Los Angeles Angels could undergo a change in ownership.

Arte Moreno, who has presided over the franchise for the better part of two decades, has “initiated a formal process to evaluate strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the team,” it was announced Tuesday.

The expectation is that the Angels eventually will be sold, though Moreno and his team will keep their options open with regard to the structure of a potential new ownership group, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

“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,” Moreno, 76, wrote as part of his statement. “Throughout this process, we will continue to run the franchise in the best interest of our fans, employees, players and business partners.”

Moreno and his group have retained Galatioto Sports Partners as financial advisers in the process. Sal Galatioto, the president at GSP, and Brad Katcher, its managing director, were part of the group that represented The Walt Disney Co. in its sale of the Angels to Moreno in 2003.

The Angels were coming off a World Series championship then, and Moreno, the first Mexican-American to become majority owner of a major league team, was a popular figure initially. He lowered beer prices, splurged on high-priced free agents such as Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon, and helped spearhead the most successful run in franchise history, a time that saw the Angels claim five division titles in a six-year stretch from 2004 to ’09.

The Angels had stability up top, with Bill Stoneman presiding as their general manager and Mike Scioscia navigating a long stint as their manager. The farm system continued to churn out elite talent, most notably Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and Jered Weaver, and a robust payroll decorated the team with stars. And at least 3 million fans attended the Angels’ ballpark annually.

But the Angels have made the playoffs only once since 2009, and at 52-70 entering Tuesday, are fading toward their seventh consecutive losing season. They have employed a generational talent in Mike Trout for over a decade and have enjoyed historic performances from two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani over the past two seasons, but the combination of bloated contracts — Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton previously, Anthony Rendon currently — and an inferior farm system have kept them out of contention in recent years.

As their postseason absences mounted, Moreno has absorbed rampant criticism for middling in baseball-operations decisions, refusing to exceed Major League Baseball’s luxury-tax threshold and for not committing enough resources to the Angels’ player-development efforts. The team’s payroll ranked within the top third in the industry during every year of Moreno’s ownerhip, but many of those signings have backfired in recent years.

The Angels have also navigated through an uncommon amount of turnover in recent years. In the 15 years since Stoneman stepped down, they have employed four different GMs — Tony Reagins, Jerry Dipoto, Billy Eppler and, currently, Perry Minasian. Brad Ausmus replaced Scioscia as manager in 2019, and he was replaced one year later by Joe Maddon, who was fired near the end of a prolonged losing streak in early June.

The Angels are expected to conduct a full managerial search this offseason.

The potential sale of the franchise during that time also makes Ohtani’s future seem even murkier. The reigning American League MVP is a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, and there was already heavy speculation that the Angels could trade him this offseason. Ohtani’s presence, however, provides the Angels with a substantial sum of money because of his marketability in his native Japan, a factor that might make a trade even less likely under the current circumstances.

Trout, meanwhile, is signed through 2030 and has a no-trade clause.

“It has been a great honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons,” Moreno said as part of his 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.”

Lately, Moreno and the Angels have dealt with an assortment of off-field issues, most notably the sudden death of young pitcher Tyler Skaggs in July 2019. Eric Kay, the Angels’ longtime communications director, was later convicted in connection with Skaggs’ overdose.

The Angels were also at the center of MLB’s efforts to corral the use of illegal foreign substances on baseballs by its pitchers in the wake of the firing of longtime clubhouse attendant Brian Harkins, who made his own illegal substance and distributed it to players on both teams. Harkins has pursued litigation against the Angels and MLB for wrongful termination while stating that the distribution of foreign substances has been a long-accepted practice.

Moreno also has been unable to purchase the land surrounding Angel Stadium, which he has long desired. The latest deal was killed by the Anaheim City Council in May in the wake of an FBI investigation that alleged that then-mayor Harry Sidhu, who later stepped down, provided confidential information to the Angels during the negotiation.

The Angels are still bound to their stadium — the fourth-oldest in the majors — through 2029 and have the option of staying as late as 2038. They play out of Anaheim, California, which is located in Orange County, but Moreno controversially added “Los Angeles” to the team name in 2005 to help make the Angels a bigger brand. That decision might have played a role in the Angels landing a major TV deal in 2011, which is worth about $150 million a year and runs through 2032.

The team in March was estimated to be worth $2.2 billion by Forbes.

Reaching the 20th year of his ownership tenure prompted Moreno to take a macro look at the franchise, which led to the decision to pursue selling the franchise after lots of deliberation with his family, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

In a statement, Mike Lyster, a spokesperson for the City of Anaheim, wrote: “We have seen three Angels owners since the team moved here in 1966. While team sales do not happen every day, they are a fact of life in sports. This is a potential decision for Arte Moreno based on his investment and family considerations. Should we see new ownership, we look forward to continuing a great tradition of baseball in Anaheim.”

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