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Along with finding themselves ten games under .500, the Baltimore Orioles are dealing with an ownership dispute that could drastically alter the future of the longstanding franchise. Louis Angelos, the son of Peter Angelos, is suing his brother, John and his mother, Georgia. In his complaint, Louis accuses his brother of seeking complete control of the team against their father’s wishes by manipulating their mother.
Louis alleges that his brother was “able to prey upon her understandable concerns about the business her husband had worked his entire life to build. He also preyed upon her fear of abandonment, exploding into tantrums and threatening to leave and move out of state if he did not get his way.” The suit reads, “John concealed and misrepresented the facts, feeding his mother a steady diet of half-truths and prevarications. He acted unilaterally and informed Mrs. Angelos about his unilateral actions only after the fact. He undermined her confidence in his brother, Lou, to exclude him from business matters at the Orioles.” Allegedly, Mrs. Angelos was led to believe John would do everything in his power to sell the team, but all he has done while in full control is diminish interest expressed by highly credible buyers.
Along with his intention to acquire and maintain complete control, the suit alleges John’s interest in relocating the team to Tennessee (where he has a home and where his wife’s career is headquartered). This does not seem to be consistent with the league’s feelings toward the organization. Commissioner Rob Manfred stated, “Baltimore remains a viable big-league city and Camden Yards is an unquestioned jewel of the sport. Not only would relocation frustrate the league, but also the Maryland state legislature which recently sunk $1.2 billion in funds to upgrade the Camden Yards Sports Complex. John Angelo seems to be the only one currently with interest in relocating the team, and he cannot do so without ¾ vote of all MLB owners, which is the requirement for an authorized relocation.
The reason for both family’s control in the franchise are the health issues Peter Angelo faced in 2017, and given his condition established a trust amongst Louis, John and Georgia, making them co-trustees. John has allegedly broken his duty of loyalty to John by withholding information owed to Louis as a beneficiary of the trust, as well as transferring tens of millions of dollars of assets from his father to an LLC without Louis’s knowledge. Louis is headed to the courts in an attempt to retrieve the assets from the LLC, seeking an injunction to remove his brother and his mother as co-trustees.
The Orioles current hierarchy mirrors that of a closely held corporation. A closely held corporation is owned by an individual or small group of shareholders, who are often members of the same family. These structures are very similar to partnerships, and shareholders owe each other an implied covenant of good faith. Courts have found that members of a closely held corporation owe one another a standard of “utmost good faith and loyalty.” In the Angelos’ family circumstance, if Louis can prove his allegations to be true, John’s actions will likely be found to have broken that standard and ultimately lead to seizure of the assets in the LLC and control of the franchise. Peter Angelos’s infirmity and apparent lack of capacity to speak has created the power struggle amongst the brothers; therefore, it is the job of the court to act where he cannot. The fate of the Baltimore Orioles is now in the hands of the judicial system.