ANGELS LOCKED OUT OF MAGIC KINGDOM AS DISNEY DEAL DISSOLVES
Walt Disney Co. has abandoned its plan to purchase a
controlling interest in the Angels, walking away from
negotiations with the city of Anaheim over the renovation of
Anaheim Stadium, according to this morning's L.A. TIMES. Both
sides confirmed yesterday "they had reached an impasse." Disney
Sports Enterprises President Tony Tavares: "This deal is over.
The negotiations have ended." The "surprise announcement," which
came as final details were being worked out, "stunned city
leaders." The announcement forces owners Gene and Jackie Autry
to find a new buyer for the club. However, acting MLB
Commissioner Bud Selig said the "deal might not be dead."
Anaheim City Manager James Ruth said several issues caused the
breakdown, with the two biggest stumbling blocks being Anaheim's
desire to bring the NFL back and its proposal to build a
"Sportstown Anaheim." City officials had hoped to anchor
Sportstown with the renovated stadium. Disney set a March 17
deadline to reach an accord on renovating Anaheim Stadium into a
baseball-only facility -- contingent on its January bid to
purchase the team. But Disney officials said they were not
comfortable extending that deadline (Greg Hernandez, L.A. TIMES,
NEXT? Former MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth said he is
"ready to go" in an attempt to purchase the Angels. A Ueberroth-
led group failed in a previous attempt to buy the team (L.A.
TIMES, 3/14). The team's Big A lease ends in 2001, and the
Autrys contend it is "one of the worst in baseball" with little
stadium revenue going to the team (L.A. TIMES, 3/14). This
morning's WALL STREET JOURNAL reports Seahawks Owner Ken Behring
is among the parties interested in purchasing the Angels. A
Behring spokesperson confirmed he has approached the city about
putting a group together (Thomas King, WALL STREET JOURNAL,
3/14). In Toronto, William Houston reports O's GM Pat Gillick
tried to put together an ownership group for the Angels before
Disney entered, but it is mentioned whether Gillick would still
be interested in the club (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/14).
WHO'S TO BLAME? In L.A., Mike Penner writes, "After 41
years of Disney telling the city of Anaheim to jump and Anaheim
asking 'How high?' the city finally came up with a different
response Wednesday, and it involved someone else going out and
taking a flying leap." Penner notes Disney didn't want "any
part" of Sportstown, and that the 12,000 parking spaces that
would be eliminated from Anaheim Stadium under such a project
were unacceptable (L.A. TIMES, 3/14).
WOULD THE NBA BE A BETTER FIT? Penner also writes, "The NBA
-- even the Clippers -- intrigues The Mouse. Fewer salaries,
controlled environment, cartoon uniforms, more stoppages of play
for crazed mascots to scare small children -- it's Disney's kind
of place" (L.A. TIMES, 3/14).