Sunday, March 9, 2008

By Craig Malone, Contributor

May 15, 2003, is a memorable day for many people, but few likely more so than Arturo “Arte” Moreno, who that day officially acquired ownership of the Anaheim Angels from the Disney Corporation. In completing the purchase, Moreno became the first Latino owner of a major sports franchise in the United States.

Moreno, who was born in 1946, is the oldest of 11 children. He grew up in a two-bedroom house in Tucson, Ariz. Upon graduating high school, Moreno enlisted in the U.S. Army and went on to serve in Vietnam. In 1968, having completed his tour of duty, Moreno enrolled at the University of Arizona, where he graduated with a degree in marketing. After college, he was hired by Eller Outdoor, a move that would prove pivotal in his life. Moreno eventually joined Outdoor Systems, where he rose within the company to become its president and CEO. Under Moreno’s watchful eye, the company’s profits rose from $500,000 to $90 million in less than 10 years. In 1998, Moreno sold the company for $8 billion.

The Angels were not Moreno’s first foray into baseball ownership. In 1986, Moreno with 17 other investors purchased the Salt Lake Trappers of the Pacific Coast League. His ownership group would sell the trappers in 1992. More recently, Moreno was a minor partner in the group that owned the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team he tried to purchase in 2001, and a minor owner of the Phoenix Suns.

As owner of the Angels, Moreno’s first major move was to slash prices on both beer and tickets, a marketing bonanza that still earns him publicity almost five years later. In addition, he showed a willingness to sign – in their prime – superstars that included Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar.

Moreno has also been known to leave the owner’s box during games and mingle with fans throughout the stadium, and he is always willing to pause for a photo, or in many cases, sit down with a child and talk baseball or whatever else comes to mind. Moreno has shown that he is a fan’s owner.

For all the positives, there have been a few sticking points, including the most controversial: Prior to the 2005 season, seeking to increase the team’s revenue and marketability, Moreno changed the name of the club from the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The move brought about a lawsuit from Anaheim’s city leaders and cries of outrage from many fans. But the results, like most things Moreno has touched, have been incredible. Recent sponsors have included the San Diego Zoo and the Los Angeles Times. In addition, Moreno was able to sign a very lucrative contract with Fox Sports Network.

As recently as April of 2006, Forbes Magazine estimated the team’s worth to be $368 million, which is more than double what Moreno paid for the club.

In a 2005 Time Magazine article, Moreno was quoted as saying: It's one thing to have the means to buy a baseball team, but more important, do you really respect the opportunity?"

I believe in Moreno's short tenure as owner of this franchise, he has show that he truly respects the opportunity and wants to bring another World Series title to Southern California and the fans of this great ball club.

Love to hear what you think!


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