Monday, November 15, 2004
Ruling clears way for move to D.C.
NEW YORK -- Arbitrators ruled Monday against the former
limited partners of the Montreal Expos in their case against former
controlling owner Jeffrey Loria, clearing Major League Baseball to
move the franchise to Washington.
Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer for the limited partners, said they
will drop their attempt to gain an injunction to block the move.
Baseball owners are scheduled to vote on the relocation Thursday
when they meet in Chicago.
The deal, subject to the District of Columbia approving
financing for a new ballpark by Dec. 31, would be the first move of
a major league baseball franchise since the expansion Washington
Senators became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season.
In a suit filed in July 2002, the 14 limited partners accused
Loria, Marlins president David Samson, baseball commissioner Bud
Selig and several others of violating federal racketeering laws,
mail fraud and wire fraud in an attempt to eliminate the Expos,
saying their 76 percent share of the Expos became a 6-to-7 percent
stake in the Marlins.
Four months later, the suit was put on hold by a federal judge,
who told the limited partners to take their case to arbitration
first. Still, the judge reserved the right to block a move, and a
hearing was scheduled for Dec. 6 in Miami.
Arbitrators John Byrne, Paul Friedland and John Wilkinson ruled
against the limited partners in a unanimous opinion.
"We are obviously very disappointed with the decision,"
Kessler said. "Frankly, we're more disappointed for the fans of
the Montreal Expos than we are for ourselves. We thought we were
right but the arbitrators disagreed, and this appears to be the end
of the road. I don't think we are going to have a basis for
continuing to proceed."
Loria sold the Expos to the other 29 teams before the 2002
season and purchased the Marlins from John Henry, who headed the
group that bought the Boston Red Sox.
"This is a total and complete victory," Marlins lawyer Bradley
Ruskin said. "The arbitration panel rejected each and every claim
and allegation that was made against Mr. Loria and Mr. Samson by
the limited partners and rejected it 100 percent, so we couldn't be
Selig was angry that he and the commissioner's office were
included in the suit.
"This was merely a partnership dispute, and that attempts to
include this office and the commissioner were particularly
malicious and frivolous," said Tom Ostertag, general counsel in
the commissioner's office.