Angels' name change cost city millions, attorney says

Updated: January 13, 2006, 8:17 PM ET
Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Angels owner Arte Moreno violated a 10-year-old contract with Anaheim and the city lost $100 million in tourism revenue and publicity when he changed the team's name last year, a city attorney said Friday.

A packed courtroom watched as the much-anticipated trial pitting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim against the city of Anaheim began. Curious fans were on hand, some wearing red T-shirts that read "We Are Not L.A."

The city sued the Angels after Moreno changed the club's name from the Anaheim Angels last January. The city alleges the 2002 World Series champions breached a contract that promised the word Anaheim would be displayed in the Angels' name and on all team merchandise and advertising.

Attorney Andrew Guilford argued that the city entered into a contract with the team's former owner, The Walt Disney Co., in 1996 with the understanding that the name Anaheim Angels would bring the city billions of "impressions" -- the publicity it received each time the Angels played or had their name mentioned in the press.

He said when Moreno bought the team in 2003 that contract was still binding and remains binding until at least 2016, when the Angels can opt out at a cost. The team can also choose to stay with the agreement until 2029, when it expires.

Guilford argued that the Angels violated that deal as part of an overall branding campaign for the Angels that included the name change. Along with adding Los Angeles to the name, he argued, team officials began removing the word Anaheim from all team merchandise, press releases and advertising as early as 2003. Guilford said he would present internal team memos and e-mails to show that.

Guilford said testimony during the trial, which is expected to last a month, would show the city's contract with the team was valued at $100 million in 1996 and that the city estimated it gave up another $100 million in concessions to Disney to get the word Anaheim in the team name. The city paid $20 million for stadium renovations, put up $10 million in billboard publicity and gave up land worth millions as part of the deal, he said.

"That is an incredible brand that even Nike would die for," Guilford said. "It's a brand IBM would die for. It's a brand even McDonald's and its golden arches would die for. And that's the logo Anaheim is here to get back."

But Angels attorney Todd Theodora argued that the contract's language only requires that the word Anaheim be included in the team's name -- which it is -- and not prominently displayed, as the city contends.

"The word 'include' -- it's hard to imagine that there is going to be a long trial over it, but that's the reason why we're here," Theodora said in his opening statement. "One word in an 80-page document."

Theodora said Disney specifically refused a request to write Anaheim Angels into the contract because the entertainment giant wanted to maintain "creative flexibility" for future owners and itself.

Theodora also made the distinction between the team's name and Moreno's right to market the team any way he chooses. He said the contract explicitly states that Disney -- and now Moreno -- have control over the Angels' marketing, sales, pricing and operating procedures.

Theodora said the Angels had been losing money for years and Moreno decided an overhaul of the Angels brand was crucial.

"The brand of the Angels when Arte bought it was in disarray. ... He said, 'We're keeping the red uniforms and we're going to focus like a laser beam on the brand. We're going to make the brand simple,'" Theodora said. "Arte and Arte alone is responsible for the success or failure of this team. If the team fails, no one's going to call the city of Anaheim."

Moreno, who was present in court Friday with his family, has said he changed the name to make the most of the Angels' location in the nation's second-largest media market. He said using Los Angeles in the name would attract more sponsorships, advertising and broadcast contracts.

Moreno, who is expected to testify during the trial, had no comment on Friday's proceedings.

The Angels began play in 1961 as the Los Angeles Angels, becoming the California Angels when the team moved from Los Angeles to Anaheim in 1966. The name was changed to the Anaheim Angels in 1997 by Disney after it bought the team.

At least a dozen fans attended the trial's first day, which was held in one of the court's largest courtrooms to accommodate the crowd.

Sergio Lopez, 33, said he took some time off from his job as a marketing assistant to hear the opening statements because he couldn't understand why Moreno's logic.

"Los Angeles has always been our crosstown rival. It's like, what's going on?" said Lopez, who wore a red T-shirt bearing an anti-L.A. logo. "Arte needs to honor the contract."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE