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The Peter Principles (Ch. 8) – That time Peter Angelos tried to buy the Washington Redskins

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8. That time Peter Angelos tried to buy the Washington Redskins

“Anyone interested in purchasing a sports franchise would have to be interested in buying the Redskins. It’s a storied franchise, in the nation’s capital – it’s one of the premier franchises in the NFL, and that automatically would make it attractive.”

– Peter Angelos to The Sun 1998

PETER G. ANGELOS WAS FASCINATED WITH more than just baseball at the end of the disappointing 1998 season. In November, when he was jockeying with Wren for control of the free agency situation, Angelos was also once again moonlighting in areas where he could exert his massive wealth and influence to boost his ego and status.

With the Baltimore Ravens of Ted Marchibroda mired in their third straight losing season since coming to Baltimore and being led by veteran quarterback Jim Harbaugh, Angelos talked openly in the media about still wanting an NFL franchise. And with a quarter of his Orioles fanbase – remember they were never to be referred to as the Baltimore Orioles, just “The Orioles” – coming from the Washington, D.C. area, Angelos thought it prudent and profitable to become a suitor for the true love of the nation’s capital – the Washington Redskins.

On Halloween 1998, Angelos threw his name into the media circus as a bidder for the team that was mired in estate debts left from the death of longtime owner Jack Kent Cooke in April 1997. Angelos had two major hurdles to clear: the NFL desperately wanted the family of Cooke to retain control, and the football owners made it clear they didn’t want cross-ownership issues with Major League Baseball, especially in a different local market.

Of course, that didn’t deter Angelos. The MLB baseball owners didn’t want him to be a part of their little club but he pushed his way in during a bankruptcy auction in 1993. The rules of the NFL owners were pliable, Angelos insisted.

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Asked by Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post, if he would relinquish control of the Orioles to own the Redskins, Angelos said: “No, I would not. But I don’t think that question is even applicable. The rule states that in order to own a team in another sport, you have to be within the same market area as the football franchise.”

Angelos was essentially saying that Baltimore and Washington were the same market, a tune he would continue to hum years later when Major League Baseball would seek to put a team in the District of Columbia. During the summer of 1998, speculation suggested that the Redskins would fetch at least $400 million and perhaps as much as $500 million if the spending got aggressive amongst billionaires who would want an NFL membership. “Anyone interested in purchasing a sports franchise would have to be interested in buying the Redskins.” Angelos added. “It’s a storied franchise, in the nation’s capital – it’s one of the premier franchises in the NFL, and that automatically would make it attractive.”

Of course, in Baltimore to mention the word “Redskins” is akin to civic heresy amongst many longtime football fans who grew up on the Colts and hated anything burgundy and gold. The Orioles got plenty of push back from Baltimoreans over the years as the team wooed D.C. baseball fans. After the Colts departed the Charm City, the subject of “market” was a source of major civic consternation from 1984 through 1995 when Redskins games were shown as “local” games on Sunday NFL viewing, despite Baltimore’s disdain for D.C.’s competitive teams under Joe Gibbs and the Hogs. It truly spoke to Angelos’ lack of knowledge in regard to local sports and fans to think that he’d be interested in buying the hated Redskins and still be able to call himself a legitimate Baltimorean. Certainly, Ravens fans thought it was heresy at the time. Even his Orioles partner and famed author Tom Clancy, who would’ve far preferred to be a majority NFL owner than a minority MLB owner, said: “I’d sell my children to the gypsies before I’d support the Redskins.”

But, Angelos, seeking more profit and fame, marched ahead telling Mark Hyman of Business Week a month later, “Why wouldn’t I be interested in an economically successful franchise?”

The magazine also had this footnote: “If he owned the Redskins, I believe it would help him block a baseball team in the metropolitan Washington area,” says Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., president of the Maryland state senate and a longtime Redskins season-ticket holder. “He’d have an inordinate amount of influence. Fact is, he’d be king of the franchises in the Washington region.”

Meanwhile, columnist Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post had more to say a week later:

Ever since it was reported last week that the Orioles owner had informed baseball commissioner Bud Selig that he intended to pursue the Redskins, local wits have been in heaven. Angelos styles himself as the quintessential native Baltimorean, not Washingtonian. He’s the sworn enemy of baseball for Washington. But now he wants to buy the city’s favorite team – for $450 million or more. Is this a joke?

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It was not a joke.

Angelos was sounding off that he was a serious bidder and believed owning teams in both sports would add to his cache and personal portfolio of significance. He was already courting Washington sports fans via the Orioles, and routinely attracting bigwig Washington politicians at Camden Yards. “Why not own the Washington Redskins?,” he thought.

He had flown to Los Angeles to try to win the Rams. He was the legitimate high bidder to purchase the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and wasn’t allowed into the NFL fraternity. And then Arthur Modell, who’d he already offended with some comments at a society event during the Ravens first year in Baltimore, brought a vagabond team in purple Barney outfits into his parking lot, which infuriated him.

And now the Redskins were sitting on the “open” market and he had the money and the desire to be an NFL owner.

As it became clear that the younger John Cooke would be unable to control the team and the estate taxes were too deep of a burden, the Redskins were put on the bidding block in the spring of 1999. The NFL believed the team was worth $800 million.

On April 13, Angelos said that he thought the money and the bidding process were awry.

“Our review of the numbers of all the details pertinent to the franchise did not establish that kind of a value [$800 million],” Angelos told The Sun. “You wouldn’t have sufficient funds to build a winner, which is the ultimate goal. It’s a great franchise, but it has to have a sound financial basis if I’m going to become involved.” Angelos wasn’t happy that the trustees used a blind

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