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Judge grants preliminary injunction in the MASN-Nationals-Orioles dispute

Aug 18, 2014, 5:02 PM EDT

Peter Angelos AP

Two weeks ago MASN and the Orioles went to court to (a) get out from under an MLB arbitration ruling requiring them to pay the Nationals a dramatically greater amount of money; and (b) get an injunction preventing the Nationals from dropping out of their broadcast deal with MASN and seek other broadcast arrangements while the dispute is hammered out. They just won on part of that.

There was an oral argument on the matter today and the judge hearing the case has entered a preliminary injunction which freezes the status quo pending the outcome of the case. That means the Nats are still going to be subject to their MASN deal and the dispute between them on one said and MASN/the Orioles on the other, will proceed in court. Or in negotiations, but those haven’t worked out too well so far.

Worth noting that part of the standard to obtain a preliminary injunction is to demonstrate that you have a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of the dispute. So, at the very least, the Orioles and MASN convinced the judge that, yes, they could win a trial in the future which seeks to throw out the arbitration ruling entered under MLB’s auspices which favored the Nats.

There will likely be a long time to go before this is all resolved, but in the meantime, nothing will change with the way we as fans see Nationals games.

  1. gordoom - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:11 PM

    the face of true evil.

  2. Stiller43 - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    Is there a reason you posted a pic of a dead guy as the pic to represent this article?

  3. SocraticGadfly - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    OTOH, since civil law standards are lower than criminal ones, while the Orioles & MASN winning the injunction might be worth something, we shouldn’t overread it either. It’s fairly rare that injunctions aren’t granted in cases like this, I think.

    • sophiethegreatdane - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:18 PM

      I thought it was the other way around — that it was rare for a judge to issue an injunction against an arbitrators ruling. At least, that’s what I thought I remember Craig saying.

      I honestly have no clue, not being argumentative.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:27 PM

        You may be right on an arbitrator’s ruling; that would be different from general and overall civil law, where an injunction isn’t that hard to get.

    • slappymcknucklepunch - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:19 PM

      It all depends on whether MASN has Godly beliefs that it is against thier own self interests to show the filthy unwashed Nats the money.Somehow with the anti-christ of Angeolos in charge,it may over-rule the free market and the Nats may get fair value.

      As long as the anti-christ gets his beak wet that is.Yeah,that is the only thing that matters.

      By the end of this dispute the Orioles will be worth twice as much as they really are,but I bet the Prick will still hold out until he somehow convinces MLB that the Marlins are worth 2 Billion.

      • ticars - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:15 AM

        There is no open market to over rule. ML team do not operate in a free market system. That’s what baseball’s anti-trust exemption is all about.

  4. ravenpride - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    I get that the Nats get the shaft financially in the deal. However, this is the deal they agreed to when the team was brought to DC from Montreal. It’s a legal contract, fair or not. Unfortunately for the Nats, Angelo’s is as good of a lawyer as he is bad as an owner. I would not be surprised to see the Lerners lose outright in court and be forced to honor the original agreement. This isn’t like a player holding out on a contract. Angelos holds all the leverage.

    • randomdigits - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:09 PM

      Of course it is a bad deal. That was the whole point of it. MLB wanted a team in DC NOW so it had no leverage and had to give Angelos a sweetheart deal.

      Of course Angelos has a point. If it was an even deal then Baltimore would be at a severe disadvantage compared to the Nats. Who is going to allow that to happen?

    • simon94022 - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:26 PM

      The Lerners ARE honoring the original deal, which calls specifically for the broadcast license fees to be determined via the arbitration process that the Lerners just won.

      Angelos is the one arguing to break the deal on the grounds that the Commissioner-controlled arbitration process he agreed to in 2005 is fundamentally unfair.

      • dreamicus - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:53 PM

        No they are not. The formula for the fees is in the contract. The formula in the contract is what the Orioles are offering. After the contract was signed TV deals went through the roof and the Nationals wanted more money.

        The arbitration you speak of is a requirement for all teams as per MLB guidelines when teams cannot come to an agreement.

        The formula is in the contract and the Orioles intend to honor the language in the contract. Angelos is not trying to break the deal, the Nationals are.

        Trust me, the fact the injunction was implemented indicates the strength of the Orioles’ case. Read Eric Fisher, a neutral party, from Sports Business Daily. The Orioles won this and they didn’t even have to enter a large portion of its case, yet.

        When a judge sides against a major sports league, you know it’s a strong case.

      • ticars - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:21 AM

        No, the deal was for licensing fees to be determined using the Bortz methodology which was not employed in this case. The Nationals didn’t want to use that method anymore, so they took it to arbitration. That arbitration panel was formed by MLB who had a vested interest in having the Nationals win, who then formed that arbitration panel with 2 teams (out of just 3) who had a financial interest in siding with the Nationals. To claim that is impartial is pretty absurd (hence this judgement).

    • brazcubas - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:01 PM

      The Lerner’s are not idiots and they would have never bought the team if the fees were set in perpetuity. The deal specifically said that the two sides could renegotiate the fees starting in 2013, and periodically thereafter. The problem is that the two sides can’t agree on what the new fee structure should be.

      MASN wants to continue using the standard formulas MLB has been using for a while, while the Nationals feel that the formulas need updating, especially considering upcoming changes in revenue sharing.

      In the short term the two sides aren’t that far apart (the difference is “only” $5 million or so for 2014), but over the life of the deal the difference is, I believe, upward of half a billion dollars.

      • ticars - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:22 AM

        They weren’t supposed to be renegotiated in 2013, they were to be re-evaluated using the Bortz Media and Sports Group methodology. But now the Lerners decided they didn’t like that method.

      • brazcubas - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:26 AM

        Is there a copy of the agreement out there? If there was anything that specific written into the contract, I doubt that the dispute would still be ongoing, or that the Nationals would have prevailed in arbitration. More likely there is only mention about “fair market value.”

        Both sides make strong cases, which is why this has become such a gigantic mess.

  5. sportsfan18 - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    Come on Bud… you threatened severe sanctions if this happened.

    Don’t get soft in your last few months in the big chair…

    Go at them the way you went after Arod…

    Were you lying to us Bud when you said you’d level severe sanctions?

    Were you thinking they’d quake at the thought of those severe sanctions and back down? So you wouldn’t have to level them.

    You are an older, wisened business man… therefore you realize BEFORE making a statement like you did about using severe sanctions that it might not work out like you wanted and therefore you have to do what it is you said you would.

    We’re waiting to hear what they are…

    What’s it going to be Bud? No Christmas cards for the Owners of the Nats and the O’s?

    Maybe you send them a fruitcake for Christmas this year. THAT will really teach them.

    • dreamicus - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:09 PM

      Well, shouldn’t Bud first do what he agreed to do in the contract he and the Nationals signed with the Orioles to allow the league to infringe on the Oriole’s market? It’s the Nationals who don’t want to honor the contract. It’s the Nationals who are asking for way more than they agreed to, even the arbitrators gave them way less then they were asking which is still way more than they are entitled to in the contract.

      So yeah, Bud. Do what you agreed to do back in ’05, Bud.

      The only reason Bud wants this to be settled so it goes quietly which is why this is the first time a lot of people have heard of it. This will not go to court. The Orioles have all of the leverage now because there is no way baseball wants any of its financial information in the public.

      The Orioles will be able to subpoena the National’s finances, the Pirates’, the Rays’, and even MLB because those were the teams involved in the arbitration proceedings and that is the basis for the case.

      No way this goes to court. The Nationals get a small bump but that is it.

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 18, 2014 at 9:04 PM

        dream

        you said it… “This will not go to court. The Orioles have all of the leverage now because there is no way baseball wants any of its financial information in the public.”

        that’s why I’m waiting for Bud to do what HE said.

        His OWN words were “most severe sanctions”.

        no one made Bud say those words and Bud is smart enough to know what he was saying.

        Folks may ask Frank McCourt about Bud’s severe sanctions…

      • ctrsteve - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:06 PM

        Dreamicus,

        You could not be more wrong in this thread. The agreement between MASN/Orioles and the Nationals called for the Nationals to be allowed to renegotiate their rights fee every 5 years. There is no formula, just two parties agreeing as to the market value of those TV rights. Needless to say, given they’re about $70M apart and have been for three years this process isn’t working and thus it was referred to arbitration.

        Would agree that having 3 MLB owners sit as the arbitration panel is questionable at best and provides Angelos the leverage he needs to take this to court.

        My guess is Bud is looking for someone to offer to buy the rights from Angelos which would force Peter to put a price on them that’s amenable to him apart from his negotiations with the Nats.

      • slappymcknucklepunch - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:36 PM

        @Sportsfan18

        This is exactly why I raised this point a few days ago.Open the books, the next time any sports team say they are going away without a new taxpayer stadium I want to see why they cannot pay for it themselves.

    • slappymcknucklepunch - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:27 PM

      Great comment,Pick a side Bud,Old guard or new guard.Man up bitch.Pick a side.

  6. bisonaudit - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:13 PM

    So what’s happening with the money MLB has been shipping the Nats for the last couple of seasons while they’ve been trying to get this mess ironed out. For how long are the other 28 owners going to continue to pay for the O’s intransigence?

    • sophiethegreatdane - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:21 PM

      How exactly is this Oriole intransigence? Based on the fact that an injunction was issues against an arbitrators ruling, it sure does seem that the O’s are standing on solid ground from a legal standpoint. At least, at this time it appears that way.

      • simon94022 - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:34 PM

        No, it only means that the court agreed that MASN would suffer irreparable harm if the arbitration award was enforced against MASN before the court has a chance to consider this case on its merits.

        Angelos want the court to rewrite the 2005 contract and initiate a new arbitration process, one that will not be controlled by the Commissioner. That may or may not be a fair result, but there’s no dispute over the fact that both parties agreed to this process in the 2005 contract.

        Angelos is in court because the process he agreed to in writing produced a result he does not like. It’s kind of bizarre to read comments from Orioles fans who think that the Nats are the ones trying to change the deal.

      • DJ MC - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:56 PM

        Not quite, Simon.

        The Orioles are in court because the Nationals and MLB were never negotiating in good faith in adjusting the rights fees, probably because neither side saw the explosion in rights fees coming. So the Nationals (and MLB behind them) are taking advantage of that to get out of the basic agreement that put the franchise in Washington in the first place. They may want “fair” value, but more than that they want fair value from someone else.

        So the agreement that both sides agreed to that would level the playing field for the Orioles losing a significant portion of their market well into the future lasts less than a decade. If we’re talking about what is fair, explain that.

      • voteforno6 - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:04 PM

        Since you seem to be inclined to the Orioles side of things, perhaps you could explain why they should control the TV rights of the Nationals. After all, they’re not even in the same market.

      • simon94022 - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:04 PM

        DJ MC, the contract in question was signed 6 months AFTER the Nats moved to DC. The Orioles did not consent to the reestablishment of the Washington Nationals (they were outvoted 29-1), and their consent was not required.

        The contract was an act of appeasement of Angelos by MLB, which cost MLB nothing. It gives the Orioles at least two thirds ownership of MASN, and it gives MASN the exclusive right to televise all Nats games FOREVER but subject to MASN paying the agreed rights fees to the Nats.. As a further sweetener to Angelos, the contract stipulated a below market rights fee for each of the first 5 years. Thereafter, the Nats are entitled to be paid by MASN what they would receive on the open market for the games. If the parties can’t agree on what that amount is, the issue must be submitted to arbitration by the Commissioner of Baseball.

        That is the agreement. You can say it was fair or unfair, but Angelos negotiated it and agreed to it in writing. The Nats and MLB have followed the agreement to the letter.

        We are now witnessing litigation because the contractually agreed arbitration process produced a result Angelos does not like. Fine. I am agnostic on that point. But Orioles fans need to stop fantasizing that Peter Angelos is standing up for their interests against the Big Bad Unfair Meanie Nationals Who Invaded Our Territory. This is delusional.

      • dreamicus - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:13 PM

        simon94022

        What have you read. The court placed the injunction solely on the fairness of the arbitration process. The specifically did not even enter any information about finances, that has been well documented.

        Again, the arbitration only takes place when the teams cannot come to an agreement. The Nationals do not want to accept the terms of the agreement. So, the bickered with the Orioles and the Orioles want them to honor the contract.

        If the Nationals had just honored the contract there would have been no need for a biased arbitration in the first place.

        All of the Angelos haters, and he deserves a lot, aren’t understanding that all of these figures are in a contract both the Nationals and MLB agreed to. They’re the ones who don’t want to adhere to the agreement.

      • dreamicus - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:16 PM

        simon94022

        Again, where are you getting your information, Daniel Snyder? There is a specific formula in the contract that determines the fees, not “fair” market value. And in terms of appeasement to Angelos, how long do you think he would have kept MLB in court to fight the move? That is why the contract was signed.

      • simon94022 - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:38 PM

        Dreamicus, I am getting my information from the actual contract, not some sportswriter’s summary or a team press release. It does not prescribe a formula and it certainly does not require the Nationals to accept whatever MASN or the Orioles offer.

        It states that the Nats are to be paid each year a license fee equal to fair market value (what they would be paid hypothetically if MASN did not control the rights and anyone could bid for them). The parties are to negotiate in good faith to determine the fair market value. If they cannot agree, they are to submit the dispute to binding, final arbitration by the Commissione of Baseball.

        That’s what it says, and that is the process that has been followed to the letter, with the Nats prevailing in the arbitration. Angelos is in court now trying to set aside the arbitration award on the theory that the Commissioner is biased in favor of the Nats, because MLB has a vested interest in driving up TV rights fees.

        He may well be right about this. But ultimately he is going to have to explain why he agreed to this process in the first place if it is so fundamentally unfair. He has a temporary stay of enforcement of the arbitration award, but the burden is still on Angelos and MASN to show why he is entitled to have a court intervene to change the terms of a contract he signed 9 years ago.

  7. voteforno6 - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:46 PM

    I would be extremely surprised if this actually made it to trial. I don’t think MLB wants its dirty laundry aired in public. Still, there’s too much at stake for both sides. The Nationals want their TV rights back…and they have a point. How many franchises have their TV rights controlled by another franchise? On the other hand, the Orioles are siphoning millions away from another (much larger) market. I doubt they would want to give up that revenue stream.

    Of course, if it did get to trial, Bud Selig would undoubtedly have to take the stand. How fun would that be? So, here’s to hoping that both franchises stand their ground.

  8. Bob - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:57 PM

    Billionaires fighting over money. Yee-hah!

  9. kingescobar1977 - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    Send them back to Montreal

    • simon94022 - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:42 PM

      So the Washington metro area would become St Louis Browns territory?

      • lennylyles - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:37 PM

        Baltimore is Washington Capital territory preventing Baltimore from getting an NHL team

      • tomtravis76 - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:54 PM

        Then all Yankee fans would have to start calling themselves Baltimore Orioles fans. Franchises move,just the way it goes.

  10. albionhero - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:24 PM

    This is one of the rare times I’m glad our owner is a top lawyer. The Gnats were at a disadvantage from the start.

    • simon94022 - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:48 PM

      Why do Oriole fans think Angelos is fighting on their behalf?

      The contract requires MASN to pay the Orioles the same rights fee it pays the Nats. Angelos wants to keep that money in MASN rather than plow it into his baseball team. I completely understand his financial motivation (fair market value rights fees could cripple MASN), but it’s not like he’s trying to protect the long term interests of the Orioles.

      • slappymcknucklepunch - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:38 PM

        THIS ^

    • pbastille - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:49 PM

      Angelos sucks. Just ask my mom, who got a $5 check as part of my late father’s asbestosis settlement. Angelos is projected to make a half billion dollars off asbestosis litigation. He’s making a fortune off of people’s suffering. http://www2.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=3575

      • slappymcknucklepunch - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:46 PM

        Please I mean no offense,but if your Mom only got 5 bucks I have to say say she must have got on at the last minute.He won billions for his clients,not all awarded,but billions anyway,for that I give him props,as an owner I hate him only after the Glass family in K.C. and Lauria who should be shot in the face in front of his mother.( I keeeed,I kid,)but somehow I kinda mean it.

  11. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:48 PM

    http://www.camdenchat.com/2014/8/8/5981507/orioles-nationals-masn-dispute-rights-fees-arbitration-court

    Here is a pretty good article detailing the Orioles side of the dispute. I advise people to give this a quick read before jumping on the “Orioles are greedy” bandwagon.

  12. janessa31888 - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:44 PM

    That guy kind of looks like Gollum/Smeagol. “My Preciousssss”

  13. tomtravis76 - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:48 PM

    Why do any fans care about this? Neither team is going to somehow share with its fans, but you can be sure you will see continual increases in tickets, concessions, etc. There is not a salary cap and neither organization is operating in a flowing red.

  14. mildbillhagy - Aug 19, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    Well if MASN has to pay the Nats’ double the rights fees, it would force them to raise their per subscriber fee (per sub fee) with every cable and satellite provider that carries MASN -> raising every customers TV bill. Also, for years Angelos has intentionally kept the Orioles payroll in the mid-market level so the Nats could never argue that owning the Nats TV deal gave the Orioles a competitive advantage. Angelos has been careful to keep Orioles revenue separate from MASN revenue, so the money isn’t fungible. I think long term Angelos’ heirs would rather own a cable TV company with the rights to 2 teams than own an MLB team.

  15. dadynational - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:32 AM

    J. Ham, I hope u have heard the commentary from Texa- Cali. It’s rally time , all the time. Go 20/20 and make Legend/legion.

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