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Baseball, Angelos Close To Deal

Before going into yesterday's meeting, Angelos said he would agree to a team in Washington if baseball met certain conditions. "Those conditions are the preservation of the franchise, the protection of the asset and the safety of the revenue stream," Angelos said yesterday morning. "If those ingredients are present, an agreement can be struck."

The three-pronged proposal calls for the Orioles' participation in a regional sports network together with the Washington team; for baseball to make up for any revenue shortfall the Orioles might suffer because of the new team; and for baseball to also guarantee the Orioles' value will not decline below a certain level in the event of a sale. Baseball would make up the difference, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

Major League Baseball President Robert A. DuPuy talks to the media after a meeting with Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos concerning the future of the Expos. (Dudley M. Brooks - The Washington Post)

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Angelos reportedly wants the financial guarantees to be effective indefinitely, while baseball wants the guarantees to last only as long as Angelos owns the team.

In addition to Angelos and DuPuy, others attending yesterday's meeting in Baltimore were H. Russell Smouse, the Orioles' general legal counsel; Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss; and attorney William H. Schweitzer, managing partner at the Washington office of Baker & Hostetler, who serves as an advisor to baseball.

Baseball's 29 owners purchased the Expos for $120 million in February 2002 from Jeffrey Loria, who now owns the Florida Marlins. The Expos have lost tens of millions over the years.

Baseball is hoping the Expos will fetch more than $300 million in an auction. The league is likely to put the team up for sale this fall and possibly close the deal by year's end, which would give a new ownership group an opportunity to put its stamp on the organization.

The District was chosen over five other locations vying for the Expos, including Northern Virginia, Norfolk, Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., and Monterrey, Mexico. Baseball all but settled on the District at a meeting of its executive council in Milwaukee last week, where the District's bid overwhelmed the competition.

Angelos spoke for about 15 minutes to his eight fellow owners gathered around the conference table at Selig's Milwaukee office, telling them a team in Washington was bad for baseball, bad for the Orioles and bad for the city of Baltimore.

Even though Angelos had some sympathy from owners such as San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan and New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, it became clear to many fellow owners that Washington's wealthy demographics, coupled with the lack of viable alternatives, made it obvious that the Expos will go to Washington.

Yesterday's meeting between Angelos and DuPuy followed a previous meeting between the two last Friday.

Williams, who met with several council members or their staffs yesterday, said he is optimistic that he has enough support on the council to get the stadium built. He said that Cropp emphasized at the meeting that he and other city officials have to sell the virtues of the stadium through a public education campaign.

Williams said the campaign will focus on three things: how the stadium is being paid for; how it benefits the community by adding jobs and businesses; and how it will generate development and improve recreation facilities for children. He said they have to take the message to every neighborhood in the city and detail the benefits for residents.

"We're not building a stadium for people from McLean to come in here," Williams said. "Do we want people from McLean to come in here? Absolutely. But we're not building a stadium just for them. We're building it for the entire region and mostly for our kids and families."

Staff writers John Wagner, Lori Montgomery, Serge Kovaleski and Yolanda Woodlee contributed to this report.

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