The future ownership of the Baltimore Orioles remained clouded yesterday as a group of Baltimore businessmen worked on plans to raise $12 million to buy the club and on additional funds to operate it there.
Their proposals included a public stock offering of $2 million and a guarantee from the city and state to help cover any operating deficit up to $500,000 over the next five years by waiving rights to admission taxes.
Their plans were disclosed hours after former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon withdrew his $12 million bid for the club with a blast at its principal owner, Jerold C. Hoffberger.
"I've never seen such duplicity in a deal in my life," Simon said. "It's like dealing with the Scarlet Pimpernel. As far as I'm concerned, my offer is withdrawn."
"Mr. Hoffberger wants to play both ends against the middle," Simon told the Baltimore Sun. "Well, he can forget this end. I think at this point and at this time, the game is over."
Simon, who will not talk to Washington media representatives, told the newspaper he never intended to move the club elsewhere "as long as people supported the club."
"I'd be crazy to do anything like that," Simon said. "We were really looking forward to livening things up here (Baltimore). Everybody talks about me going to Washington -- heck, I'd move to Wake Island before Washington."
Simon reportedly has a Washington partner whose identity could not be immediately learned.
With Simon's withdrawal, F. Barton Harvey, vice president of a group of Baltimore businessmen, said he believes his group has the "inside track" among potential purchasers.
But there were doubts that the American League would approve the group's proposed financial arrangements and those doubts were raised, among others, by Hoffberger.
Harvey said the group planned to raise $6 million from 30 persons, $4 million from a company or group controlled by the Hoffberger family and $2 million from cash the club has in the bank. A loan from the state would not be necessary now, he said.
Hoffberger has offered to lend the group $4 million at 6 percent interest, to be repaid in five years. But, he said, the loan may not satisfy the league on the group's long-range financial stability.
"The local group will have to satisfy the American League that it can pay the interest on the loan and repay the principal at the end of five years," Hoffberger said. "It will also have to satisfy the league that its major participants can and are willing to meet any cash shortfalls created by losses which the club might incur in the future."
Hoffberger said the group would have to act quickly since he has six to eight serious offers from out-of-towners.
Last year, it cost $7.5 million to run all aspects of the club. Harvey said other sources of revenue could come from a $2 million public stock offering and an aggressive campaign to sell season tickets that could net the club $1.5 million. If raised, the $2 million in stocks would replace the $2 million in cash in the bank.
In addition to other plans, Harvey said the group also contemplates asking the city and state to forego up to $500,000 in admissions taxes over the next five years if the club's losses reach that point.
A spokesman for the American League declined comment on the plans until a formal presentation is made. In general, however, baseball insists on a minimum 60-40 ratio of equity to debt.
Baseball has also insisted on having a club leader with whom to deal on financial and game-related matters. Whether Hoffberger would continue in that role is uncertain. Should the group's efforts or those of others fail, he could end up running the club again this year.
In an interview with a Baltimore television station last night, Hoffberger indicated he expected to have an active role in the club as long as the Baltimore group owed him money because he had the largest amount of money at stake.
Simon's sudden withdrawal was apparently prompted by the secrecy-cloaked sessions between Hoffberger and the Baltimore group over the weekend.
Simon said he and Hoffberger agreed on a deal Dec. 27. "He's had the (proposed purchase) contract more than a month. He never raised one objection to any single part," Simon said. "How could he? There was never anything wrong with it.
"He has damaged the merchandise and acted in bad faith. I think I've been played dirty pool every way to Sunday."
Hoffberger told the press that parts of Simon's proposal were unacceptable and lawyers for both parties were working on the sections.
Simon said that Hoffberger set a 2:30 p.m. deadline last Friday on the various proposals, but never called him.