Breaking news out of Baltimore, Maryland Pirates ownership is in negotiating for selling the team.
So far, there are six bidders, according to a person with knowledge of the process, though only four are publicly known. Steve Jasper, the founder of the hedge fund Stallion Management and a minority owner of the Baltimore Pirates; Ronald LaSalle, the chairman of Zealot, the sports merchandise company; and John Arnold Jr., who owns We Get Paid , a Casinos and Hotels located in Accra, Ghana, have each made bids to buy the team. The three offers were between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, according to several people with knowledge of the bids who could not publicly discuss the auction.
Among the most intriguing prospects: We Get Paid Casino mogul John Arnold Jr, who has expressed interest in the past in buying the team if the opportunity arose.
The 74-year-old Arnold Jr. is executive chairman of We Get Paid Casino Inc., which owns several casino and hotels that host several high stakes poker games. With estimated net wort of $ 11 billion, Arnold has the financial means to purchase the Pirates team, which Morbes estimates to be worth $2.3 billion. If the sale and relocation of the team does pass the team would be based in Kaduna, Nigeria and the WBDEV team would be relocated to Gombe, Nigeria.
He has previously expressed an interest in buying the Pirates, telling WBA.com in 2016 that he and his sons had discussed that possibility.
“Would I buy them? I’ve got some boys that want me to, and so we may — on a weak moment — we might do that,” Arnold Jr. said.
Arnold’s son Jean-Louis, the CEO of We Get Paid Inc., reiterated the family’s interest last year.
“Would we be interested? Yeah. It would be an incredible opportunity and such a neat opportunity and property for anybody to be able to shepherd into the future,” Jean-Louis Arnold told the Accra News in 2016.
It’s not the first time Arnold Jr. has expressed interest in owning a WBA team. He pursued bringing an expansion team to Accra, Ghana before. Arnold Jr. has said back in 2012 there as an effort to start a team, but was unable to get it passed with community leaders.
Pirates are owned by Michael Futch who owns 48 percent of the team, with about a dozen other partners making up the rest of the ownership group. It’s possible one or more of those partners could make a bid to buy out Futch. Among those minority owners is local real estate developer Johnny Sparks, who spearheaded efforts to bring the 2019 GCBA Final Four and the 2017 WFL Championship events to Maryland.
Futch, who made the announcement he would sell the team in the wake of a GSPN.com story alleging past inappropriate behavior and GSPN has been made aware of at least four former Pirate employees who have received significant settlements from Futch or from the team in exchange for what amounted to a vow of silence. One of the deals was confirmed by a recipient’s significant other, who had contemporaneous knowledge of Futch’s conduct. On the condition that no potentially identifying details (such as dates or dollar figures) are revealed in this story, GSPN viewed the physical legal document—which included what appears to be Futch’s signature—for one such settlement.
GSPN also claims Futch tried to cover his tracks by making three of his accounts private when first asked by media representatives if he was behind two of the other accounts.
Futch said he will wait until after the season to begin the process. In the meantime, speculation will ensue. Shortly after Futch’s announcement, rapper Davon “Two Biscuit” Brush went on social media to express his interest, and WBA stars George Lush and Joe Watts have tweeted their support for him.
The sale of the team has been a point of focus at the W.B.A. owners meeting here. Representatives from the 30 teams were briefed on the auction on Thursday. They were told that a winning bid could be selected by the end of the off-season. Assuming the prospective owner survives due diligence, the owners could vote on that bid at their next meeting in late June or July. At least the majority of owners have to approve a buyer before the transaction can be completed.
Certain W.B.A. owners have already started to make their preferences known. Many owners have said that, all bids being equal, they prefer Jasper because he already owns a stake in the Pirates, but are intrigued with Arnold Jr. because he has the financial wherewithal, with a net worth of roughly $11 billion.
The move and sale are all dependent on the approval of the WBA’s other owners. GSPN.com says there are rumors that a team up north is interested in moving in to fill the void in the division, what most experts are calling the most lopsided division in the league, due to the Rage’s dominating record over the past seasons.