Major League Baseball and lawyers for the Baltimore Orioles negotiated in New York yesterday, trying to close a compensation package with the Baltimore club that will allow for the local broadcast of Washington Nationals games before the team's April 4 opener.
MLB President Robert DuPuy and Alan Rifkin, an attorney for Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, met all day and into last night at MLB headquarters, with league attorneys, television consultants and others participating. Angelos participated in some of the negotiations by telephone from his office in downtown Baltimore.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos has threatened a lawsuit if an agreement isn't reached to compensate him for the Nationals' arrival in the area.
(H. Rumph Jr. -- AP)
DuPuy said the sides broke off talks around 8:30 p.m. and will resume negotiations today.
The talks have focused on who controls the rights to the Baltimore-Washington region, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The dispute is delaying an agreement on a compensation package that MLB will give Angelos to offset the financial impact that the Nationals will have on his team.
The delay has cost the Nationals valuable television promotion because the team cannot move forward on a local television agreement until the compensation package is agreed upon. Angelos inherited the broadcast rights to the Baltimore-Washington region, extending from the Pennsylvania border to North Carolina and from West Virginia to Delaware, when he bought the Baltimore club for $173 million in 1993.
MLB maintains that Angelos was never guaranteed exclusive broadcasting rights to the Washington area, and the league can vote to redistrict the region's television territories to make room for the Nationals, whom it moved from Montreal last fall. Angelos opposes that redistricting and has made it known that he would sue to stop it if he did not have an agreement. MLB believes it would prevail in any lawsuit, but would like to avoid the messiness of an Angelos lawsuit without hampering the Nationals' local television opportunities.
The Orioles said they need revenue from the entire television territory in order to compete in the American League East Division, which includes the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Instead of giving up the television rights, Angelos has proposed an Orioles-owned regional sports network that would pay the Nationals, collectively owned by MLB's 29 other teams, fair market value for televising their games on the Orioles' network. That number, presumed to be in the $25 million range, would likely increase over time as the Nationals grow more popular and their television rights grow with it, according to sources.
MLB is reluctant to cede control of the Nationals' television rights to another team, fearing it could cripple the franchise and reduce the amount of the Nationals' sale price.
The television piece is the only loose end in a six-month negotiation between MLB and Angelos, which is designed to compensate the Orioles for the $30 million in lost ticket sales, stadium advertising, parking, concessions and other stadium revenues that the Orioles said they will lose with the arrival of the Nationals into Washington.
The city of Washington has agreed to build the Nationals a $440 million stadium on the bank of the Anacostia River.