- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2002

William Collins, head of the Northern Virginia-based effort to bring in a major league baseball franchise, said yesterday he has never talked with baseball about providing an indemnification payout to Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos should he land a team.
For many months, rumors within baseball have centered on Angelos receiving a payoff, perhaps as high as $75million, from the purchaser of a Washington-area team to cover any loss in revenue from a second team entering the region. Angelos has been a vocal opponent of any team entering greater Washington and has argued that the Orioles and the second team would act as significant economic drains on each other.
But Collins, who has pursued a local team since 1994 and nearly purchased and moved the Houston Astros to the area in 1996, said the topic has not been addressed in numerous meetings with top Major League Baseball officials and owners. Washington Baseball Club officials yesterday also said they have not discussed an Angelos payoff with anyone inside of baseball.
"It's simply never come up. I've heard all the talk about it, and you can't say it absolutely will never come up in the future, that it's not part of discussions inside of baseball. But in all the discussions I've had with [MLB] owners and executives, all the years we've been doing this, that's never been an issue," said Collins, chairman of the Virginia Baseball Club. "There are 29 other clubs in baseball [besides a relocated team], and I'm not sure how doing something extra for one particular owner would go over."
Angelos, part of MLB's labor negotiating team, was involved in labor talks with the players yesterday and unavailable for comment. Indemnification payoffs for both Baltimore and San Francisco (if Oakland moved to San Jose) were loosely discussed among several owners last fall at the beginning of the ongoing effort to wipe out at least two franchises.
Collins yesterday met with local media during what could be a critical juncture in the area's long pursuit of a team. Baseball owners and players remain deep in labor talks, centered on crafting a new economic framework for the game. And once those talks end, expectations are high that baseball will turn its attention to moving at least one of several struggling clubs, most notably the MLB-owned and operated Montreal Expos. Several comments by MLB officials this year have pointed to a strong likelihood Washington will stand at the top of the list of relocation prospects. Because of that, Collins is still holding out hope of a team playing in the area next season.
"We stand ready and committed," said Collins, who is days away from signing a previously announced five-year extension to his exclusivity deal with the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority.
The labor talks, however, remain far from conclusion, and a work stoppage is possible. Also, both sides are awaiting a decision from arbitrator Shyam Das on the union challenge to baseball's contraction plans. That ruling, expected tomorrow, could be delayed for a second time.
As the labor talks continue, both Collins' group and the WBC, led by financier Fred Malek, are reworking stadium and financing plans. Both groups are expected to present some of their work to MLB executives this fall.
To that end, the prospect of an indemnification payment to Angelos, or lack thereof, is significant because both groups are preparing preliminary budgets not only for the purchase of a franchise, but for the first few years of team operation and ballpark construction.
VBC executives said yesterday it may be possible to acquire a relocated team for between $140million and $200million once one becomes available. Steady discussions within baseball, however, point to bidding likely starting at $300million. Collins declined to address either paying more than $300million for a franchise or his willingness to provide a payment to Angelos if needed.


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