SBD/July 30, 2014/Media

MASN Ruling Favors Nats, Prompts Stern Warning From Selig Over Intense Litigation

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Selig warned Nationals and Orioles owners of the consequences in seeking legal action
A June 30 ruling by the MLB committee adjudicating the Orioles-Nationals dispute over MASN media-rights fees "favored the Nationals," who currently receive $29M per year under their contract with the RSN and "wanted it bumped up to somewhere between" $100-120M per year, according to Eriq Gardner of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The ruling "prompted attorneys to swing into high gear" and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to "attempt to get out in front of the situation." Selig in a letter to Orioles Owner Peter Angelos and Nats Owner Ted Lerner wrote about "expending extensive time and resources toward preserving the value of the TV network serving both clubs." Selig: "Unfortunately, these efforts have come to naught solely due to your unfathomable inability to agree on a fair division of that value. ... Neither of you has approached this negotiation with the best interest of the game paramount in your mind." Selig wrote of the consequences for both parties if they chose to take the dispute beyond MLB, "Please be advised that nothing in the Agreement authorizes the parties to file any lawsuit. ... If any party initiates any lawsuit, or fails to act in strict compliance with the procedures set forth in the Agreement concerning the decision, I will not hesitate to impose the strongest sanctions available to me under the Major League Constitution." The same day Selig sent his letter, MASN attorneys wrote a letter to the Nats that "slammed the MLB arbitration panel's 'lack of procedural fairness.'" A Nats attorney on July 1 responded by telling MASN the club was owed an additional $10M "for rights-fee payments due on April 1 and June 1 and warning of an impending deadline of default." A MASN attorney also "accused Selig and the MLB of improper financial motives" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 7/29).

NEXT CHAPTER: In DC, Adam Kilgore writes the June 30 ruling "might only begin a new, litigious chapter in the acrimonious, years-long squabble over profits from MASN." The Nats last week in New York Supreme Court "filed a motion" against MASN, but "that case has been sealed." MLB, the Orioles and the Nats yesterday issued statements acknowledging that the dispute "remains unsettled" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/30). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck notes the dispute "continues an ongoing feud between the two teams, since the Orioles were given a much larger share of MASN to compensate them for the loss of potential gate and broadcast revenue they were expected to suffer because of the arrival of a second major league baseball team in the region" (Baltimore SUN, 7/30).
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