News has been breaking that an agreement has been made to sell the Baltimore Orioles to two private equity firm billionaires with David Rubenstein, 74, taking over as principal owner from the Angelos family that has run the team for the past 31 years. Rumors also have been reported that a Baltimore legend, Cal Ripken Jr., would have a small ownership interest with the Rubenstein group.
Remember that Bloomberg News first reported the Rubenstein rumor in early December. The very next day, per Andy Kosta of The Baltimore Banner, John Angelos told Maryland Governor, Wes Moore, that his family did not plan on selling the Orioles. That essentially killed the Rubenstein rumors at the time, and until today’s news.
Also, you might remember that Rubenstein was rumored to have joined Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports investment group to purchase the Washington Nationals; however, sources told us that Rubenstein did not want to take a backseat to Angelos in an ownership group, and as such, never became a partner in Monumental. But sources tell us that Rubenstein and Angelos have spoken about shared interests. It is also no secret that Leonsis wants to broadcast baseball games on his Monumental Sports Network as we wrote in early December.
Talking with sources and working theories is that MLB commissioner Manfred would not want a sale of the Orioles to a third party without a resolution of the MASN ownership situation — and that is potentially great news for the Lerner family who are the principal owner of the Nationals and also a partner in MASN with approximately 24 percent ownership that grows by 1 percent per year and tops-out at a 33 percent ownership stake in the year 2032. This could also pave the way for the Nationals to be broadcasted on the Monumental Sports Network as we discussed last month. We could see three options:
1. A sale of MASN to a third party network such as Monumental Sports Network or to an MLB owned network.
2. A sale of the Nationals portion of MASN to the Washington Nationals.
3. No change to the current MASN structure and the Orioles retain their majority ownership as before, and going forward.
We believe the Nationals would want their own autonomy over their TV rights and would want the second option, and then they certainly could make a deal with Monumental to broadcast their games or another network. Having your control over your TV rights is essential in baseball. The Nationals are the only MLB team that does not have full control of their long-term TV rights — and that is a competitive disadvantage. On top of that, the Nats and Orioles were embroiled in lawsuits in the courts that spanned nearly a decade. Of course it has also been rumored that MLB wants a national broadcasting agreement of all games for all teams like the NFL has.
What is interesting over the years were the misconceptions about what contractually would happen to MASN if the Orioles were sold. At one point the Washington Post incorrectly claimed that an Orioles sale would automatically free the Nationals from MASN. We challenged the author, Barry Svrluga, on that point. Months later, WaPo posted a small correction, then later, a different WaPo writer, Ben Strauss, correctly posted the facts.
Per The Baltimore Sun, the roughly 76 percent of the Orioles ownership in MASN will initially be included with the sale of the team to Rubenstein’s group, which is good news that Angelos is not trying to retain MASN and keep the entities separate.
In April of 2022, news broke that the Washington Nationals would explore a sale of all or part of their team, but it never happened. We broke the news in 2022 that MASN was the Rubik’s Cube in the initial failed attempts to sell the Nats, and later broke the news in January of 2023 that there was “no sale.” Potential buyers lined up and most dropped out quickly. But if the Orioles were to ever get sold — which we reported in December that the Orioles could be sold first and before the Nats, per sources, who seem to be correct again, and that the TV rights could be solved as MLB might not allow a sale to go through without the TV rights issues getting resolved with MASN and the Angelos and Lerner families.
While we thought this day may come, hearing it and seeing it could be a liberation of the Nats’ TV rights and creating an olive branch between the Orioles and Nationals to coexist as friendly neighbors who would compete only on the baseball field. The gain for the Orioles new ownership would be in courting back D.C. fans to root for them as their American League team in a true dual allegiance, and vice versa with Orioles fans for the Nationals.
On Rubenstein, he made no secret on how much he liked the idea of sports team ownerships. As we pointed to in October of 2022, Rubenstein appeared on the podcast, The Billionaires Podcast, in which he discussed ownership in sports teams. It is at the 18 minute mark. He makes the point about the importance of diversification and owning multiple teams in different sports which is the model of the Fenway Sports Group and others like the Glazer family have done.
With Rubenstein being a Baltimore native and son of a mailman, he saw education as his way out, and became one of the founders of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group that he grew into a multi-billion dollar business. By the way, Carlyle has a tony location at 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington as its headquarters. They chose D.C. and not Baltimore. Also, Rubenstein made Bethesda, Maryland his home in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
Many would say the philanthropist is a Washingtonian who got the heck out of Baltimore. So much of his charity work was on DC monuments, museums, and The Kennedy Center where he just resigned as their chairman. He is a self-described Orioles fan, and attended many Nationals games too. A source said he knows the Lerner family, and the hope is they can form a good working relationship as the teams are only separated by 38.4 miles of driving distance between the two stadiums, door-to-door. They also start out on paper as partners in MASN with that split this year of 76/24.
There are a thousand questions and theories that are swirling around including whether this would speed along a sale of the Washington Nationals by the Lerners, but a sale of the Orioles of around $1.7 billion probably reinforces the Nats are worth somewhere in the low $2 billion range. As we know, you can ask whatever you want for your mansion — you just might not get your price — and it could stay on the market for a long time.
Obviously we have feelers out to more sources and will update as we have new information.