Moreno defends renaming to 'Los Angeles'

Updated: January 27, 2006, 11:55 PM ET
Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif.-- The owner of the Angels insisted Friday in court testimony that renaming his team to include the words "Los Angeles" honors a 10-year-old lease with Anaheim.

Arte Moreno acknowledged that shortly after buying the team in 2003 he ordered staff to stop using the word Anaheim on team merchandise.

He said, however, that despite those orders the team's official name of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim still satisfies the terms of a 1996 contract to keep Anaheim in the name.

Anaheim's attorneys claim Moreno violated that contract and cost the city $100 million in tourism revenue and publicity when he officially changed the team's name in 2005 from Anaheim Angels to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Moreno bought the team from Disney, but the city says he is bound by the terms -- and the intent -- of Disney's lease agreement with Anaheim.

Moreno's attorneys argue that the Angels' owner has the right to market his baseball team any way he wants to, as long as he keeps the word Anaheim somewhere in its name. The lease doesn't specifically state that Anaheim should be the only city in the team name, nor does it specify where the word "Anaheim" will appear in the name, said Angels' attorney Todd Theodora.

Moreno, who was called by the city as a hostile witness, made a distinction between the team's nickname -- the Los Angeles Angels -- versus its official name. He said using the nickname on merchandise was important to capitalize on the Los Angeles media market, which is the second largest in the nation.

He compared Anaheim's relationship with Los Angeles to Queens or the Bronx and New York City. Anaheim is about 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles in Orange County.

"I felt that for us to grow the brand, we needed to expand the brand into the media market. I look at the whole L.A. area, sir," he said in response to a question from City Attorney Andrew Guilford.

Moreno denied Guilford's assertion that if the city lost the case, Moreno planned to drop Anaheim from the team's name entirely.

After a long morning, Moreno's testimony was filled with jokes that often made the entire courtroom laugh loudly.

When asked about team merchandise that bore the name Anaheim, he suggested it was from the black market. When asked about another cap that said the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles, he joked "maybe they changed their name."

But his light-hearted attitude also drew the ire of Guilford, who admonished him at one point not to be sarcastic because "this is no laughing matter for the city of Anaheim."

Moreno declined to comment on the day's proceedings as he left court with his attorneys. He will return Monday for another hour or two of testimony, Theodora said.

Also Friday, Tom Daly, who was mayor when the lease was negotiated, testified that the City Council voted for the lease in part because officials believed its name would be the only city name associated with the Angels. He said The Walt Disney Co., which then was buying the team from Gene Autry, used the team's name as a bargaining chip when it negotiated the lease.

While cross-examining Daly, Theodora sought to emphasize that if the city wanted to guarantee it would be the only city in the team's name it should have written that language into the lease agreement. He used the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim -- now the Anaheim Ducks -- as an example, saying that in a lease agreement with the National Hockey League team the city spelled out four naming scenarios to protect itself.

"You knew that promises to the City Council had to be documented in writing and presented to the City Council and you knew that in 1996, correct?" Theodora asked Daly.

Daly said that the council unanimously rejected an original lease agreement with Disney. But Disney negotiators later used the issue of the team's name to sweeten the deal in a special meeting with city officials and Disney's Tony Tavares, who is now president of the Washington Nationals.

The council passed the stadium lease agreement on the second try with a 3-2 vote after that meeting, Daly said. Having the city in the team name was important because the city wanted to attract national attention and tourism as it invested $180 million in a convention center expansion and refurbished the area around Disneyland, Daly said.

"The Disney negotiators used it ... effectively as a bargaining chip," Daly said of the meeting with Tavares. "He talked about the name, it being used in the national news, CNN, in East Coast newspapers. In essence, he said Anaheim would replace "California" in the team's former name, the California Angels.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press