The success of the Angels, who are returning to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years, and the consummation of a new labor agreement, ensuring there will be no work stoppage for four years and possibly easing baseball's competitive and revenue disparities, seem to have revived the long-dormant efforts of the Walt Disney Co. to sell the team.
Sources said Saturday that the Nederlander family, one of the last independent operators in the increasingly consolidated entertainment and production business, has expressed interest.
Disney officials declined to comment, but lawyer Neil Papiano, who represents the Nederlanders, confirmed what he described as "very preliminary discussions" regarding the Angels and added that Disney and the Nederlanders have been "longtime partners" in several entertainment ventures.
"Given their relationship and the Nederlanders' interest in baseball, it's probably not surprising that the Angels would have come up," Papiano said. "However, it's very preliminary. No one at this point has asked to look at any of the club's figures or books."
That step would require approval of the commissioner's office and might have to wait until the division series between the Angels and New York Yankees is concluded, given the Nederlanders' financial ties to the Yankees. James Nederlander Sr. and his brother, Robert, are limited partners in the Yankees, and Robert served as Yankee president in 1990-91. They would have to divest those holdings under baseball rules if they were to buy the Angels.
The Nederlanders own theaters from New York to Los Angeles and are involved in the production of a wide variety of Broadway shows and concerts.
Their companies own or lease or operate and/or exclusively book several Southern California venues, including the Greek Theatre (which they plan to operate in conjunction with the House of Blues), Pantages Theatre and Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, where Disney's Mighty Ducks play.
The Nederlanders are not alone in their interest in the Angels, who have suddenly become a hot ticket in Orange County and taken on the look of a hot property.
Although the status of negotiations between Disney and Alabama businessman Donald Watkins is unclear, The Times reported in Saturday's editions that Carlos Peralta, a billionaire who owns a Mexican League baseball team, is also pursuing the Angels.
In March, Forbes magazine listed Peralta among the 400 richest people in the world and estimated his net worth at $1.3 billion. A baseball official said Saturday that Peralta is sincere in his desire to buy a major league team and hopes to meet with Disney officials soon.
In its desire to sell the Angels, separately or in tandem with the Ducks, Disney has hired Lehman Brothers, a New York investment banking firm, to identify potential buyers and aggressively shop the teams.
Ross Newhan and Jeff Leeds
(8-9, 4.91 ERA)
Edison Field, 1 p.m.
TV--Fox Sports Net
Radio--KLAC (570), XPRS (1090)
Update--The Angels are inviting fans to join in a send-off to New York after today's regular-season finale. Approximately one hour after the final out, the Angels' traveling party, bound for the division series against the Yankees that starts Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, will depart through the home plate gate directly in front of the ballpark. From there, the Angels will be bused to Long Beach Airport for the flight east.