On second thought, Arte Moreno decided not to sell the Angels.
On Monday, five months after putting the team up for sale, Moreno announced he would retain ownership. Potential buyers had been reviewing team finances and visiting the stadium, and initial bids were due next month.
“During this process, it became clear that we have unfinished business and feel we can make a positive impact on the future of the team and the fan experience,” Moreno said in a statement. “This offseason we committed to a franchise record player payroll and still want to accomplish our goal of bringing a World Series Championship back to our fans.”
In August, Moreno announced he had hired an investment bank, stopping short of unconditionally committing to a sale but saying the process should start. “Now is the time,” Moreno said in a statement then.
It is not unheard of for an owner to field bids, then decide not to sell because the bids had fallen short. In this case, with the Angels projected to sell for a record price for a Major League Baseball franchise — at least $2.5 billion — Moreno decided over the last week to simply call off the sale without taking any bids.
As the Angels fortified their roster this winter, Moreno is said to have become reinvigorated about retaining ownership, and as such his decision was not about how many potential buyers had materialized or what they might have bid.
More than half a dozen potential buyers had expressed interest, including Joe Lacob, owner of the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors; Patrick Soon-Shiong, owner of the Los Angeles Times; and investors from Japan.
It is uncertain whether such a record MLB bid would have materialized. The Washington Nationals have not found a buyer despite being up for sale since April. The Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins could go up for sale soon, according to MLB sources who declined to be identified, and the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays have yet to secure the new ballpark that each team has sought for more than a decade.
It also is uncertain whether an Angels bidder would have requested a price adjustment. The Angel Stadium lease expires in 2029, and an owner likely would have to choose among spending hundreds of millions of dollars in renovation costs, spending perhaps $1 billion for a new ballpark or trying to find a new home.
Moreno and the city of Anaheim had agreed to a deal in which he would keep the team in town through 2050, renovate or replace Angel Stadium at his cost, and build a neighborhood atop the stadium parking lots.
The city killed that deal in May amid a federal corruption investigation in which an FBI agent said former mayor Harry Sidhu shared confidential city information with the Angels in the hope of securing a $1-million campaign contribution from them. Sidhu resigned, but he has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.
Still, the collapse of that deal marked the second time in a decade that the city had walked away from an agreement with Moreno, and he turned his attention to a potential sale of the team within weeks. It is uncertain whether he would consider a third round of negotiations with Anaheim.
“When the time is right, the city will be welcome and open to having those types of long-term discussions,” Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken said. “Right now, we’re going to let the dust settle.”
Moreno’s decision could complicate the Angels’ efforts to retain superstar Shohei Ohtani, who can leave as a free agent after the season. Ohtani has made clear he wants to win. Under Moreno’s ownership, the Angels have not won a postseason game since 2009 or played in one since 2014, tied with the Detroit Tigers for baseball’s longest playoff drought.
In the fall, the Angels agreed to a one-year, $30-million contract with Ohtani, with Moreno intending to let a new owner consider a long-term deal with Ohtani. That consideration now reverts to Moreno, who signed Mike Trout in 2019 to what is still the richest contract in baseball history: $426.5 million.
The Angels also agreed to a one-year contract with Phil Nevin, who finished last season as interim manager, so that a new owner could consider his own management team. That consideration also reverts to Moreno.
Under Moreno, the Angels have fallen behind their rivals in scouting and player development.
Nevin said he thought it was “awesome” that Moreno was staying.
“When you don’t win, fans are going to point fingers at a lot of things, but they shouldn’t be pointed in his direction,” Nevin said. “He wants to win as badly as anybody, and our job right now is to give him that opportunity. He’s given us the resources to put us in a good position for this, and now it’s on us.”
Moreno, 76, bought the Angels for $183.5 million in 2003, one year after the team won the title in its only World Series appearance in its 62-season history. Starting in 2004, the Angels won the American League West championship in five of six years.
However, the Angels have endured seven consecutive losing seasons. They sold 3 million tickets every year from 2003 to 2019 but sold just 2.46 million tickets last year.
Through a spokesperson, Moreno declined to comment beyond his statement.
“Despite strong buyer interest in the Angels, Arte Moreno’s love of the game is most important to him,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “I am very pleased that the Moreno Family has decided to continue owning the team.”
“I wouldn’t sell either,” former Angels star Torii Hunter said. “The Angels are a major league baseball club, man, they’re in Orange County, and I just think a little more marketing, a couple more wins, and that franchise is going to change.”
Hunter said he had a pretty good idea of what Moreno meant when he said he had “unfinished business.”
Said Hunter: “Pretty sure he’s talking about a championship. I mean, you got two of the best players in the world. No matter who gets signed in the offseason, they [are] still the two best players in the world, right? Maybe you do need some pitching. So he probably has a plan, and I’m hoping that plan is within the next year or two, because the Angels are still my team.”
Tim Salmon, a member of the Angels’ Hall of Fame and a current broadcaster for the team, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by Moreno’s decision to retain ownership.
“I like Arte,” Salmon said. “I like the things he did. I’m a supporter. I think he’s an owner who is passionate about winning, and every player would love to play for someone like that.
“And I know there are misgivings that people have when something doesn’t turn out right, but at the end of the day, to wake up every winter and see the guy is signing everybody possible to make your team better … I mean, I played 10 years here where we didn’t do any of that, so the contrast is huge. And that’s why I’m a huge proponent.”