Baltimore’s David Rubenstein Nears Acquisition of Orioles Franchise in $1.7 Billion Deal

Baltimore, MD – David Rubenstein, an influential Baltimore native and co-founder of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group, is poised to gain control of the local sports franchise he has long pursued. Rubenstein, a prominent philanthropist in Washington, D.C., has reached an agreement to acquire a 40 percent stake in the Orioles, according to three anonymous sources familiar with the matter. This deal, which is pending approval from Major League Baseball (MLB), values the team at $1.7 billion. Rubenstein’s group would initially purchase 40 percent and hold the option to buy the remaining stake at a later date.

Neither the Angelos family nor the Orioles has confirmed the existence of this agreement and have declined to comment. However, the sources say that Rubenstein’s investment group includes Michael Arougheti, the founder of Ares Management, a private equity firm, and Cal Ripken Jr., a legendary former Orioles player. The potential role of Ripken in this deal remains unclear as his representative did not respond to requests for comment.

If the deal is finalized, Rubenstein would become the Orioles’ “control person,” a term used by MLB to designate the lead decision-maker for each team. Currently, John Angelos, the son of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, holds this role due to his father’s health. Documents from a settled lawsuit reveal that Angelos has mandated the sale of the team upon his death, and sources suggest that the Rubenstein-led group may have the option to purchase the remaining 60 percent at that time.

While the agreement is in place, the partial sale to Rubenstein is not imminent. MLB owners must vote on the move, following due diligence conducted by a smaller committee of owners. It is uncertain whether this process has begun, and sources do not expect a vote on the sale at the upcoming quarterly owners’ meetings in Orlando. Instead, the decision may be delayed until the summer’s owners’ meetings.

The potential sale of the Orioles raises questions about the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), which broadcasts Orioles and Washington Nationals games. The current agreement between MLB and the Orioles grants the team control over the Nationals’ television rights in perpetuity. Rubenstein would inherit these rights alongside those of the Orioles. Speculation exists regarding the possible rearrangement of this agreement as a condition of sale approval, but both MLB and the Nationals declined to comment on the matter.

The Orioles are unique among the four major professional sports teams in owning television rights to two franchises. Their current ownership group has expressed no interest in relinquishing this distinction. A recent court ruling mandated that the Orioles pay the Nationals approximately $60 million per year from 2017 to 2021, although it remains unclear whether these fees have been paid.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos purchased the team in 1993, the year Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened. His family recently secured funding for stadium improvements and witnessed the team’s surprising victory in the 2023 American League East title race.

Meanwhile, Rubenstein, renowned as a co-founder of Carlyle and a generous philanthropist in Washington, D.C., recently resigned as chairman of the Kennedy Center. In 2022, he emerged as a potential buyer of the Washington Nationals in partnership with Ted Leonsis, the owner of various Washington sports teams. Leonsis remains interested in purchasing the Nationals, and there are suggestions that a potential sale of the Orioles to Rubenstein could pave the way for a deal. However, neither party has indicated an imminent agreement.

In conclusion, David Rubenstein is on the verge of gaining control of the Orioles through his investment group. This potential sale awaits approval from MLB owners, who will vote after a due diligence process. The sale could have implications for the ownership of television rights and could potentially reshape the landscape of local sports programming. Regardless, Rubenstein’s acquisition of the Orioles would mark a significant development for both the team and the Washington-Baltimore sports community.