Suit claimed MLB reneged on expansion

Updated: September 26, 2003, 2:20 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- A group of Tampa investors settled its nearly 11-year-old lawsuit against major league baseball involving efforts to land an expansion team.

The 15-member Tampa Bay Baseball Group, led by businessman Frank Morsani, sued in 1992. The investors accused major league baseball of reneging on its promise to grant the group an expansion team for the Tampa Bay area.

The settlement was reached late last week after both sides agreed to hire a mediator, said Morsani's lawyer, Tony Cunningham. Terms were not disclosed.

"It was amicably settled by all parties," Cunningham told The Associated Press. "We're happy to finish a major piece of litigation."

Rich Levin, spokesman for commissioner Bud Selig, confirmed the settlement Friday but declined to discuss details.

The settlement includes many of the original investors as well as Morsani, who was the group's executive director. They tried to buy two teams in the 1980s -- the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers -- and move them to the Tampa Bay area.

Morsani argued that major league baseball dissuaded him from moving those teams and promised an expansion team instead. Baseball later granted an expansion team, the Florida Marlins, to Wayne Huizenga.

Morsani said he spent about $3 million in an effort to get a team.

"It has been tough, but I'm pleased it's behind us and we can all finally get on with our lives," he told the Tampa Tribune.

The lawsuit had faced extensive delays since Morsani filed it in state court in November 1992. It has had seven judges, was moved twice to federal court, was appealed twice to Florida's Supreme Court and finally was set for trial next month in Tampa.

Tampa Bay finally got a team when the Devil Rays opened in 1998, but Morsani was not involved. Tampa businessman Vince Naimoli leads a group that owns the team, which plays in St. Petersburg.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press