Rally monkey jumping off Mouse’s back

Disney pacts for $180 mil sale of baseball champs

Disney is about to boot world-champion Anaheim Angels out of the Magic Kingdom.

The baseball franchise — which has been a disappointing investment for the Mouse House — was quietly put up for sale before the World Series. But the team’s resulting win in the annual Fall Classic, as expected, hasn’t done much for the franchise’s value, which is tied largely to its television contracts.

A well-placed source said Tuesday an agreement in principle has been reached to sell the Angels to Phoenix businessman Arturo Moreno for approximately $180 million. That’s considerably lower than the Burbank conglom had been hoping to fetch for the franchise.

Details of the sale agreement weren’t immediately available. But head Mouseketeer Michael Eisner has promised that any Angels buyer would have to pledge to keep the team in Anaheim, where it plays at a Disney-refurbished municipal stadium close to Disneyland.

Mouse sunk a reported $100 million into the stadium after coughing up $147 mil for the franchise in 1998 and swallowing more than $100 million in operating losses over the years. Disney, which also has its Anaheim Mighty Ducks franchise on the sales block, once claimed the Angels were worth $300 million.

Conventional wisdom has shifted dramatically in recent years on the merits of media congloms owning sports franchises, which are now believed to cost more than their supposed corporate synergies are worth.

Currently, News Corp. is shopping its Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, and AOL Time Warner hopes to find a buyer for its Atlanta Braves baseball franchise, its Atlanta Hawks basketball team and the Atlanta Thrashers hockey club.

A one-time minority investor in baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks and former owner of an outdoor advertising company, Moreno would become baseball’s first Mexican-American owner if Major League Baseball’s current team owners approve the deal. The 30 team owners have a regularly skedded meeting next month.

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