Baltimore Orioles To Be Sold To Rubenstein-Led Ownership Group, Which Includes HOF Cal Ripken, Jr.
RWL congratulates all involved in this momentous transaction, including our client, legendary Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.
Several Big Law firms are guiding a deal that will see Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles transfer from former litigator Peter Angelos to private equity titan and lawyer David Rubenstein in a deal worth more than $1.7 billion.
Once approved and finalized, the deal will keep the Orioles as one of the few remaining major US professional sports franchises to be owned by a lawyer.
In more recent years, the soaring valuations of pro sports teams have relegated most lawyers interested in ownership to invest in up-and-coming sports or minor leagues. A lawyer working on the Orioles deal, who requested anonymity in discussing client matters, said the “staggering numbers” on sports sale prices today means the financial world is where most buyers are found.
“Lawyers do well for themselves, there’s no doubt about that, but these figures are in another stratosphere,” the attorney said.
Rubenstein, 74, was born in Baltimore and hosts a show on Bloomberg Television. He made his fortune as a co-founder of the Carlyle Group Inc., but began his career as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York. He went on to work at a predecessor firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in Washington. While he hasn’t practiced law in decades, Rubenstein is still listed as in “good standing” with the District of Columbia Bar. His registration with the New York State Unified Court System, however, is noted as “delinquent.”
Cal Ripken Jr., a legendary Orioles player, is also part of the Rubenstein-led ownership group set to take control of the franchise. Ripken, whose youth baseball company just hired a general counsel after receiving an injection of private equity money, is being represented by Alan Rifkin, managing partner of Maryland’s Rifkin Weiner Livingston, a longtime legal adviser to the Orioles.
A press release issued late Wednesday identified former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke—a former partner at what is now WilmerHale—retired basketball player Grant Hill, and Michael Bloomberg, owner of Bloomberg Law parent company Bloomberg LP, as other members of the new ownership group.
Working on the transaction, which still must be approved by the league and fellow MLB team owners, are lawyers from Hogan Lovells; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and multiple other firms, said two sources briefed on the matter.
Wachtell, which has done legal work for the Carlyle Group, is serving as outside counsel to Rubenstein on his bid for the Orioles. The Wall Street firm, no stranger to notable transactions involving famous figures, was part of the sales process for MLB’s New York Mets and Miami Marlins.
Edward Herlihy, a longtime leader of Wachtell, is working on the Orioles deal with corporate partners Eric Feinstein and Meng Lu. Other Wachtell lawyers include finance partners Scott Charles and Gregory Pessin, tax partner Joshua Holmes, executive compensation partner Michael Schobel, litigation partner Steven Winter, antitrust partner Damian Didden, finance counsel Neil “Mac” Snyder, and intellectual property counsel Justin Orr.
Hogan Lovells is advising Michael Arougheti, head of alternative asset manager Ares Management Corp., and Ares investors Mitchell Goldstein and Michael Smith on their roles as members of Rubenstein’s ownership group. Hogan Lovells partners Michael Kuh, Adrienne Ellmann, and Matthew Schernecke, as well as senior associate Zohra Sayedy, are leading a team working on the matter.
Wachtell and Hogan Lovells teamed up to advise on another high-profile agreement announced Wednesday—the PGA Tour receiving a $3 billion investment from a consortium led by John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group, owner of MLB’s Boston Red Sox, as well as Steve Cohen and Marc Lasry, a pair of moguls that have invested in other sporting assets.
Legacy of Lawyers
The Orioles are currently owned by Peter Angelos, 94, a plaintiffs’ lawyer who specialized in asbestos litigation, and his son John Angelos, who runs the team. The Angelos family paid $173 million in 1993 to buy the Orioles in an auction after the team’s former owner, lawyer-turned-financier Eli Jacobs, filed for bankruptcy. Jacobs purchased the Orioles for $70 million in 1988 from famed trial lawyer Edward Bennett Williams, the late co-founder of Williams & Connolly.
Jacobs’ ownership group included Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson co-founder R. Sargent Shriver Jr. and his son, Robert “Bobby” Shriver III, as well as Larry Lucchino, another ex-Williams & Connolly partner who was president of the Orioles prior to taking similar jobs with the Red Sox and San Diego Padres.
The proposed sale of the Orioles comes after the Angelos family resolved last year an estate battle that saw John Angelos—a law school graduate who never sat for the bar—and his mother, Georgia Angelos, face off against Louis Angelos, his brother and fellow attorney. Louis Angelos was represented by Jeffrey Nusinov of Baltimore’s Nusinov Smith, while Georgia and John Angelos were respectively advised by Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton partner Adam Streisand and O’Melveny & Myers vice chair Daniel Petrocelli.
Terms of the settlement were not undisclosed, although Zuckerman Spaeder partner William Murphy was named a conservator for Peter Angelos’ namesake firm. The firm’s operations are separate from Angelos-controlled limited partnerships that own the Orioles, said three sources familiar with the matter.
Jones Day, which was reportedly retained by Georgia Angelos two years ago during that familial dispute, is now representing the Orioles on their sale of a controlling stake to Rubenstein’s group. Jones Day of counsel Bruce Bennett, a veteran restructuring lawyer, is working with the firm’s mergers and acquisitions leader Robert Profusek and associate Julia Feldman in advising the team.