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October 09, 1998|BILL SHAIKIN

The Walt Disney Co. plans to complete its purchase of the Angels well in advance of a March 30 deadline.

The company bought a 25% interest in the franchise from Gene and Jackie Autry in 1996, with the option of buying the remaining interest after Gene Autry's death. Autry died last Friday, leaving Disney an option period of 180 days, Anaheim Sports spokesman Tim Mead confirmed Thursday.

Major league owners approved Disney in 1996, and no further vote is required, Mead said.

Disney will exercise the option but will not do so immediately out of respect for Autry. A public memorial service is scheduled Oct. 18 at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Griffith Park.

"The focus continues to be on Jackie and those who had been close to Mr. Autry, and on working toward that tribute," Mead said. "The business aspect of all this will take place in due course."

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