David Rubenstein, a Baltimore native and one of the founders of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group, is on the verge of acquiring control of the Baltimore Orioles, a franchise he has long pursued.
The prominent Washington philanthropist and a cohort of investors have an agreement in place to buy a 40 percent stake in the team, according to three people familiar with the situation, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to address a deal that still needs Major League Baseball’s approval. The deal with the Angelos family values the team at $1.7 billion; the Rubenstein-led group would buy its initial share now and hold the option to buy the rest at a later date.
“When I took on the role of Chair and CEO of the Orioles, we had the objective of restoring the franchise to elite status in major league sports, keeping the team in Baltimore for years to come, and revitalizing our partnership group,” John Angelos said in a statement Wednesday. “This relationship with David Rubenstein and his partners validates that we have not only met but exceeded our goals.”
Rubenstein’s investment group includes MichaelArougheti, co-founder of private equity firm Ares Management, and Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. NBA great Grant Hill; billionaire Mike Bloomberg; Y. Michele Kang, who is also the owner of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit; and former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke are in the group as well.
The Orioles have been a part of my life since I was a child, and this is a special day. I look forward to this opportunity and will do whatever I can to help the organization. Let’s go O’s!
If the deal is approved, Rubenstein would become the Orioles’ “control person,” a term MLB uses to designate the lead decision-maker for each team. John Angelos took over that role from his ailing father, Peter, in 2020. Peter Angelos has directed his family to sell the team when he dies, according to documents presented in a since-settled lawsuit, and multiple people familiar with the deal suggested it includes an option for the Rubenstein-led group to purchase the remaining 60 percent of the team after Angelos’s death.
But while the agreement is in place, the partial sale to Rubenstein is not necessarily imminent. MLB’s owners must approve the move and can do so by a vote only after a committee of owners’ due diligence on the financing and logistics. It is not clear whether that process has started, but multiple people familiar with the situation said Wednesday they do not expect the other 29 team owners to vote on a sale at their quarterly meetings in Orlando next week. That process probably would not happen until the next owners meetings, which will take place this summer.
Also not clear is how a sale might affect Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which broadcasts Orioles and Washington Nationals games and has been a source of years of consternation for all involved. According to the agreement MLB made with the Orioles when the Nationals moved into their territory in the early 2000s, the Orioles control the Nationals’ television rights in perpetuity, though they are obligated to pay Washington fair market value each year.
That deal states that, “In the event that either the Orioles, the Nationals, or the [regional sports network] are sold … all subsequent purchaser(s), assignees or transferees shall be unconditionally bound to all terms and conditions of this Agreement.” In other words, Rubenstein would inherit the Nationals’ television rights along with those of the Orioles.
But there has long been optimism and speculation among interested parties that a potential sale of the Orioles could open the door to some rearrangement as a condition of approval of the deal. Neither MLB nor the Nationals were willing to comment on such a possibility Wednesday, and MLB has long made clear that the existing agreement is binding.
When the Lerner family announced it was exploring a sale of the Nationals in April 2022, Rubenstein emerged as a potential buyer in partnership with Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Leonsis — who is in near-constant contact with the Lerner family and remains interested in buying the Nationals, according to people familiar with the situation — has prioritized expansion of his Monumental Sports Network, which to this point has not had reliable summer programming outside of the WNBA.
Multiple people familiar with Leonsis and the Nationals’ situation have suggested that Leonsis could be seeking the broadcast rights to the Nationals or Orioles to fill out his network’s local sports programming, and a potential sale of the Orioles to Rubenstein could clear the way to a deal — though no one affiliated with either owner has indicated such a deal is imminent.