Network Deal Gives Angelos Huge Fee; Tab Could Go to Owner of Nats
Byline: Eric Fisher, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos will receive a payment of $75 million for the Washington Nationals' 10 percent stake in the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the new TV venture formed to air Nationals and Orioles games.
Major League Baseball (MLB) will pay the first $37.5 million of the fee due June 30, according to sources familiar with the agreement that MLB struck with Mr. Angelos in March.
A senior baseball official said that MLB's central office will make the payment.
However, some groups seeking to buy the Nationals fear that MLB, which owns the Nationals, will seek to indirectly recoup the money when it auctions off the team this year.
Who will make the second payment of $37.5 million, due June 30, 2006, is not clear. Some sources think the Nationals' new owners ultimately will be responsible for the full $75 million.
The Nationals' stake in the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) will increase to 33 percent over the next two decades. Mr. Angelos' share of 90 percent gradually will decrease.
That component of the agreement previously had been reported; Mr. Angelos' fee, however, had not.
This agreement "is even worse for the Nationals than has been reported," said one industry source who has read the terms of the agreement.
MLB executives and Mr. Angelos declined to comment.
MLB executives struck the unprecedented settlement with Mr. Angelos to alleviate his concern that the relocation of a team to the Washington area would harm his club.
The payment places a de facto value on MASN of $750 million, a reflection of the optimism that MLB and the Orioles have in the venture and the growing importance of team-owned regional TV networks in professional sports.
An 80 percent stake in the New England Sports Network, for example, added an estimated $250 million to $300 million to the sale of the Boston Red Sox three years ago.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who has spoken extensively with MLB executives about the Nationals' role in MASN, said he was not aware of the payment.
Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, has supported the Nationals' junior status in MASN, which shields the franchise from financial risk in the venture and guarantees the team rights-fee payments that start at $20 million each year. …