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.
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, because the Angel Stadium lease expires in 2029 and an owner likely would have to choose among hundreds of millions of dollars in renovation costs, perhaps $1 billion for a new ballpark, or trying to find a new location.
The 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.
The Angels agreed last fall to a one-year, $30-million contract for 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.
Moreno, 76, bought the Angels for $183.5 million in 2003, one year after the team made the only World Series appearance in its 62-year history. The Angels won American League West championships in five of the next six years.
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. I am very pleased that the Moreno Family has decided to continue owning the team,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
“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 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.”
Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.