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Anaheim Trying to Get Out Front of Name Issue

In opening arguments of lawsuit against Angels, city says name change cost it millions, and team says it didn't violate lease.

January 14, 2006|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

As Darin Erstad caught the last out in the World Series and delirious players piled atop each other in celebration, the announcer declared, "The Anaheim Angels are the champions of baseball!" In a victory parade two days later, players waved to fans from atop a float decorated by this banner: "Anaheim Angels, 2002 World Champions."

For the city and the team, those were happier days. On Friday, as the city presented jurors with its argument in its lawsuit against the Angels, city co-counsel Andy Guilford played a brief highlight video from that magical October to illustrate the exposure Anaheim lost after the team adopted a Los Angeles identity last year.

By relegating Anaheim to what the city calls a "hanging chad" in the team name, and dropping the city's name in marketing and promotions, the Angels have broken their stadium lease and deprived Anaheim of national exposure worth some $100 million, Guilford said.

"That is a brand even Nike would die for," he said. "That is a brand IBM would die for. That is a brand McDonald's and all its golden arches would die for.

"That is the brand the citizens of Anaheim paid for and we're here in court to get."

In his opening statement, Angel co-counsel Todd Theodora cited provisions of the lease that grant the team "sole discretion" over marketing and said the new name -- the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- satisfies the clause requiring the team name to "include the name Anaheim therein."

Theodora told jurors the clause did not guarantee that Anaheim would be prominent in the team name, would be the first word in the name or would be the only city in the name, pointing to the word "include."

"The ordinary English meaning," he said. "Nothing magical."

The lawyers delivered their opening statements before a crowded room in Orange County Superior Court. Angel owner Arte Moreno and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle attended, as did the rest of the Anaheim City Council. At one point, Moreno sat next to Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, apparently unaware of her identity. He quickly moved.

Also attending were Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman and Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim), who last year introduced a bill that would have required the team to include geographic disclaimers on ads and tickets.

The trial resumes Tuesday.

In evaluating the disputed lease language, Guilford told jurors they should consider the intent of the parties that negotiated the deal. Disney owned the Angels then, and Guilford said the prominent use of the Anaheim name was "the bait dangled in front of the city" in exchange for its $20-million contribution toward stadium renovation.

At one point in negotiations, the city asked that the team name be restricted to "Anaheim Angels." Disney refused.

Guilford said James Ruth, then the city manager, and Tony Tavares, then the Angel president, would testify that neither party contemplated the team would use the name of another geographic location.

The language, Guilford said, simply addressed Tavares' concern that Disney Chairman Michael Eisner might later want the name of his company's baseball team to mimic the name of his company's hockey team -- the Mighty Angels of Anaheim, or the Almighty Angels of Anaheim.

"Anaheim Angels may have been crossed out, but only for the limited purposes everybody understood," Guilford said.

Guilford also displayed a letter from Gene Autry, who sold the team to Disney, in which Autry said the team would be called the Anaheim Angels.

However, Theodora showed an internal Disney document that included 41 "name suggestions" for the team, including Pacific Shades, Orange County Breeze, Southern California Surf and Anaheim Gargoyles. He also said Tom Daly, then the Anaheim mayor, had inquired about the possibility of a two-city name with Disney executive Sandy Litvack. Theodora argued that Disney's intent was to maintain "creative flexibility and control," not to assure Anaheim of prominence.

"The city did not buy the name. The city did not buy any part of the name," Theodora said. "If Disney didn't give a promise regarding the name in the contract, the city doesn't have it."

The city does not claim approval rights over the Angels' marketing, Guilford said, but merely asks that they use the city name as every other team does. The disappearance of Anaheim from sports scores and stories, he said, deprives the city of "billions of impressions" annually, devaluing the $20-million investment by a city that derives half its revenue from tourism and conventions.

Yet, Theodora noted, the city received $400,000 in ticket revenue from the Angels in seven years under Disney -- and $5.5 million in three years under Moreno. "What's good for the Angels is good for the city," Theodora said.

Moreno argues the name change is part of a business plan to broaden the Angels' appeal and generate more revenue, pay star players and win a championship.

"That plan is faulty," Guilford said. "We all know the 2002 Anaheim Angels -- under Disney, with no new geo-identity -- won the World Series. We also know that, under the new plan, we have not won a World Series yet."

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