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Disney May Keep a Piece of Angels


As he joined in the merry celebration after the Angels' victory over the New York Yankees on Saturday, Disney Chairman Michael Eisner for the first time raised the possibility that the company might retain a partial ownership stake upon selling the team.

Disney recently hired an investment bank to sell the money-losing team, a decision that reflected in part a corporate urgency to sell nonessential assets at a time company stock has plunged to eight-year lows and in part an admission that the company has been unable to attract buyers it deems qualified. In a sputtering economy, and with Disney insisting that prospective buyers keep the team in Anaheim, Eisner acknowledged Saturday that what he called "the right buyer" has not been easy to find.

"There are not a lot of people like that," he said. "We may or may not sell. If we do, we may very well stay in as a partner."

Disney valued the Angels at $300 million during sale discussions three years ago, but major league sources believe the company might accept as little as $180 million to make a deal. As part of a sale, Disney could retain an interest in the Angels' retail merchandising and licensing.

Since Disney retained the investment bank, potential buyers expressing interest in buying the team include Mexican billionaire Carlos Peralta, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and the Nederlander family, theater impresarios.

Eisner, drenched in champagne after the game, saluted the Angels for their first postseason series victory.

"I think it's great for all of Southern California, for Orange County in particular and for the Walt Disney Co.," he said. "It demonstrates the kind of teamwork we like to have in everything we do--making movies, building theme parks, whatever.

"We like to use sports analogies. For our company, this becomes a sports analogy for the future: Remember the '02 Angels!"

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