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The Literal Fortunes of the Orioles are Hopefully Changing

David Rubenstein poses for a photograph.

The Angelos family is selling the Orioles, and that might mean an increase in payroll under new ownership.

January 30 will go down as a franchise-altering day in Baltimore Orioles history. The Angelos family is selling the team to billionaires David Rubenstein and Mike Arougheti, according to Sportico and John Ourand of Puck News. The price point is $1.725 billion, a significant and unsurprising increase from the $173 million Peter Angelos paid in 1993. The buyers both come from private equity, as Rubenstein is the co-founder of the Carlyle Group, and Arougheti is the co-founder of Ares Management Corp. While Rubenstein will be the control person, the Baltimore Banner reports there will be others with smaller stakes, including SS Cal Ripken, Jr.

The news is a significant development for the Orioles, as the sale of a franchise is always impactful. The timing is crucial here for a team that has completely turned around its play on the field. The O’s led the AL with 101 wins in 2023, and the Angeloses are likely getting much more than if they sold two years ago coming off 110 losses. It is worth noting that the family is not selling their whole stake until Peter, age 94, dies to avoid paying around $100 million in inheritance taxes. The new group will be taking over 40% of the franchise for now.

Selling the team comes after a few hectic years for the Angelos family, to say the least. Just a month ago, the owners and the State of Maryland renegotiated a lease at the eleventh hour for the Orioles to stay at Camden Yards. More worrisome was the Angelos infighting, as Peter’s son Lou, wife Georgia and son John, the current controlling person, sued each other, but the lawsuits were dropped. Rubenstein will have to deal with ongoing MASN disputes against the Washington Nationals, though.

Potential Positive Impact

Fans of the Orioles are hoping the sale is good news for the team to spend more. The Mike Elias regime has improved the team from worst to first but with no help from ownership. The Birds have never run a high payroll, but their team-record payroll for CBT purposes was $179 million in 2017. That is not a tiny number, but the O’s have been near the bottom in payroll since John took control. Their closing figure from 2023 was $89 million.

The Orioles are in an enviable position with a good roster, superb farm system, and little money on the books. But they have not taken advantage to this point in the offseason. They have not signed or traded for a top starting pitcher. John Angelos has not let the Orioles spend meaningful money, so fans are hoping Rubenstein will.

There is good reason for optimism. Rubenstein is from Baltimore and likely wants to see the Orioles win. Forbes lists his net worth at $3.7 billion, which is roughly twice what Peter Angelos is worth. He is not Steve Cohen, but Rubenstein has plenty of money to spend if he wants to. Plus, at 74 years old, Rubenstein is not sprightly, either. He is in much better shape than the elder Angelos, but he will only be fit to lead for 10-15 years at most. That means Rubenstein might invest even more heavily in the O’s to ensure he enjoys more winning seasons with the time he has. In addition, fans will have a person to trust in Ripken as the historic face of the franchise.

While sales take a while to go through, it would not be surprising if the Orioles make a splash in the next week. Birdland would be thrilled to wake up to news of signing SPs Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery.

Possible Reservations

Fans are right to be hopeful, but it is only a hope for more aggression. Moving away from one frustrating owner does not guarantee the new one will be any better. Rubenstein and Arougheti are businessmen, and they might view this as merely a calculated transaction. I doubt this is the case, but it is possible they are only in it for the money and don’t care much about the results on the field. Contrary to what the commissioner says, owning an MLB team is about the safest investment a person can make.

There have been rumblings of some day moving the franchise, and selling the team makes that possibility far more remote. But Oakland fans probably did not expect to lose their franchise when John Fisher bought the A’s. We never know what could happen down the road, and maybe the new group sees another city as more viable long term.

I think those are both unlikely scenarios, but a more realistic one would be overbearing involvement. Some teams, most notably the Los Angeles Angels, suffer from an owner who is too involved in baseball operations. Players and fans want an owner who cares about the team’s success, but owners do not come from a baseball background and therefore aren’t qualified to make roster decisions. That’s what the general manager is for. The Orioles have a great one in charge of the team, so hopefully Rubenstein lets Elias continue to run the show, preferably with more financial leeway.

The O’s are in their best position this century to win a World Series. I am optimistic the new ownership group will help them reach the peak of baseball, but we won’t know that without evidence. It is time to open the pocketbooks.

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