The Anaheim City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to “immediately void” the $320 million deal to sell Angel Stadium to Angels owner Arte Moreno’s business partnership, the Orange County Register reports.
The vote came just two days after Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned amid an FBI probe into a so-called “cabal” of Orange County’s elite that runs the city. The day after his resignation, Councilman Jose Moreno said the investigation had revealed what he called “a pandemic of corruption” in Anaheim and called the stadium deal “the fruit of a poisoned tree,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
The decision to kill the deal won’t leave the Angels homeless, however. Because the sale wasn’t finalized, the stadium remains under the ownership of the city and the Angels are under a current lease that binds them to Angels Stadium through at least 2029, according to the Times. The team also has the option to extend its residency through 2038.
The council’s vote came after more than two hours of public comment, all of which favored the decision to terminate the deal. At one point, a man used part of his allotted speaking time to lead the audience in a chant of, “Ditch the deal!” Other attendees held up signs with slogans reading “Audit Anaheim” and “All crooks resign,” O.C. Register reports.
The city had agreed to a $320 million sale of the 150-acre Angel Stadium property, which was billed as the biggest real estate deal in the city’s history.
The sale to SRB Management, Angels owner Arte Moreno’s business partnership, was slated to bring new life to the aging stadium by building roughly 3,000 to 5,000 new apartments and condos as well as restaurants, shops, hotels, and offices, O.C. Register reports. The new development was estimated to generate 45,000 jobs, plus millions in revenue in future years.
In a morning appearance on KPCC, Jose Moreno said starting fresh might result in a project that looks similar to the one that he wants the city to cancel, the Times reports.
“In terms of the vision of the development, I don’t think you get much disagreement,” Jose Moreno said.
Several speakers argued that the first order of business should be to seek a new appraisal following the FBI affidavit that was made public last week, which accused Sidhu of providing confidential information to the Angels about the city’s appraisal of the property.
Sidhu’s attorney, Paul Meyer, denied the allegation, saying an investigation will find that Sidhu “did not leak secret information in the hopes of a later political campaign contribution” from the Angels.
The council’s decision to axe the deal could lead to legal fallout, as the terms of the sale agreement allows the buyer to seek as much as $5 million in his “transaction costs” and potential legal fees, the Times reports. However, the city’s preliminary legal position is that the alleged fraud could relieve the city from that financial burden.
Arte Moreno could potentially sue the city for breach of contract, but Jose Moreno said he would jump at the chance to depose Sidhu and Arte Moreno under oath in the event the Angels file suit.
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