Billionaire Baseball Owner Putting Wins Over Profit
Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno likes to make money. But after amassing a fortune in excess of a billion dollars, right now, what he wants to do more is win.
"I could probably make more money somewhere else, but I want to win," he told CNBC. "I always tell the guys that I need some jewelry."
Moreno made the bulk of his money when the company he led, Outdoor Systems, was bought by Infinity Broadcasting for $8.7 billion in 1999. He bought the Angels for $180 million in 2003. After seeing the value of the team more than triple, he should just be able to buy his own jewelry.
But what he wants you can't buy. You can only win a World Series ring.
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To that end, Moreno has been incredibly aggressive. Last year, he spent $240 million for future Hall of Fame slugger Albert Pujols and another $77 million on pitcher C.J. Wilson. This year, he committed another $125 million on outfielder Josh Hamilton.
"You have to look at every business, you are going to make an investment," he said. "We're trying to make a run at the end. What is going to give us the best opportunity to compete at the highest level?"
Moreno is a wildly popular owner not just for this attitude and willingness to spend money.
He knows that build a lasting fan base—like the ones in Boston, New York, St. Louis and even the cross-town Dodgers— you need to do more than field a good time. You need to make it a good time. He started with beer, almost immediately cutting prices back in 2003.
"I dropped it from about $8 to $4.50," he said. "For ten years, I've never moved that price. I go and double check because you know they want to go and change the cup on me."
After that, he went to work on the below-21 fans.
"To me, you also want young people to have the experience," he said. "if it so unaffordable to come to a ball game, then they are going to do something else.
"When we came in, I said I was going to start marketing to five, six and seven year olds. The thought we were nuts. Well, ten years later, they are 17, 18, 19 year old kids now, and they are buying tickets."
The results have been obvious.
The Angels had never averaged 3-million fans before he took over the franchise. Under Moreno, the team has never been below that level.
What's more, the Angels average almost a million more than the league average.
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Pujols saif Moreno's care for the fan is authentic.
"It's really special how he treats people," Pujols said. "That's what drew me most to come to this organization."
All that is well and good, but a talented team and a value proposition for the fans will feel a lot better with a title.
"At the end of the day, we're all going to have more fun (if we win)," he said.
—By CNBC's Brian Shactman; Follow him on Twitter: @bshactman