The future of the Baltimore Orioles’ ownership is at stake in a lawsuit brought by attorney Louis “Lou” Angelos, son of longtime Orioles owner Peter Angelos, against his brother, Orioles CEO John Angelos, and their 80-year-old mother, Georgia Angelos. The complaint, filed on June 9 in a Baltimore County court, demands that recent amendments to a family trust be voided and that John Angelos be held liable for fraud and intentionally interfering with his brother’s inheritance.
Much of the case stems from the aftermath of Peter Angelos, now 92, creating a revocable trust in 2017 that named his wife and sons co-trustees. As the complaint tells it, the trust was intended to ensure the trio would “share in decision-making” and that Lou and John “would share equally in his estate.”
The complaint insists that John Angelos has unlawfully attempted to exclude his brother from the estate. Lou portrays John as “manipulating” their mother after their father became disabled in 2018. In that light, the complaint charges that John “preyed upon [Georgia Angelos’] fear of abandonment, exploding into tantrums and threatening to leave and move out of state if he did not get his way.”
John Angelos also allegedly “announced himself as Chairman and CEO of the Orioles” without authorization and “fired long-time employees who would not play ball.” One of those employees was retired Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson, who is in the club’s Hall of Fame and held a front office post until 2019. John is described as dismissing Anderson because he found him more loyal to the club and to Peter Angelos than to him.
The complaint directly addresses the potential of the family selling the Orioles, who have been in Baltimore since 1954. A few years ago, the complaint asserts, Georgia Angelos decided the team should be sold—with the trust poised to gain appreciably from a sale. Consider the increase in the club’s value while the Angelos family has owned the team. In 1993, an investment group led by Peter Angelos purchased the Orioles for $153 million. According to Sportico’s most recent MLB valuations, the franchise is now worth $1.63 billion.
It’s worth considering that MLB franchises are not up for sale very often, which could drive up the potential price of a sale. Since 2013, only two teams—the Kansas City Royals and, most recently, the New York Mets—have been sold. Steve Cohen bought the Mets in 2020 in a deal that valued the team at about $2.42 billion.
While the Orioles’ value has increased by nearly 1,000% during the Angelos family’s ownership, the club’s on-field product and ownership investment in players have been decidedly less impressive—particularly of late. From the 2017-21 seasons, the Orioles finished in last or second-to-last place in the American League East; this season is no different, with the team currently mired in last, 19 games behind the division-leading Yankees as of June 14. The team has also had the lowest payroll in MLB over the last few seasons.
A sale of the Orioles has yet to materialize, the complaint contends, because John has allegedly “done everything in his power to stall and, ultimately, thwart plans to sell the club.” He also, if the complaint is to be believed, “single-handedly torpedoed interest expressed by one highly credible group of buyers.” The complaint speculates that John might explore moving the club to Nashville, where he and his wife, Margaret Valentine, own a home and where she owns a music management company. Under Article V of MLB’s constitution, three-fourths of all MLB clubs must approve a team’s relocation (or a sale).
In addition, the complaint contends that John “surreptitiously transferred” real estate holdings into “a company owned by a trust formed for his benefit,” and has engaged in self-dealing. These and other alleged moves are depicted as breaches of fiduciary duties to the trust.
Lou Angelos further maintains that when he confronted his brother over his behavior, John “threatened his inheritance.” That alleged threat is relevant to another allegation in the complaint. Lou says that he was not sufficiently notified of amendments to the trust that, the complaint says, “purports to grant Mrs. Angelos the power to completely disinherit Lou [,] purports to grant her the power to rewrite Mr. Angelos’ estate plan [and] purports to limit the ability of a court to remove a trustee serving as a ‘MLB control person,’ without MLB approval.”
In a statement on Monday, John Angelos attempted to extinguish potential concerns over any efforts to relocate the Orioles from Baltimore—a city that saw the Colts abruptly leave for Indianapolis in 1984.
“I want to assure our Orioles players and coaches, our dedicated front office Senior Leadership Team and staff, and our devoted fans, trusted partners, elected, civic, and nonprofit leaders, and our entire community,” John Angelos said in the statement, “that the Orioles will never leave. From 33rd Street to Camden Yards, the Birds of Baltimore, the iconic team of Brooks, Earl, Jim, Frank, Cal, and Eddie, will forever remain in the only city that our family and our partnership group has called, or will ever call, home.”
In the coming weeks, attorneys for John Angelos will answer the complaint, deny the allegations and insist that John has acted in the trust’s best interests. They are also likely to offer a retelling of facts and narratives that is substantially different than those alleged by Lou.