Thursday August 14th, 2014

Major League Baseball's arbitration panel ruled on June 30 that the Baltimore Orioles owe the Washington Nationals about $55 million to $60 million in an ongoing legal dispute over rights fees from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, according to court filings reported by The Washington Post.

A New York Supreme Court judge last week granted a preliminary injunction that prevents MLB from taking further action against MASN or the Orioles. In court papers filed Wednesday night, the Orioles argued that the injunction should stay, with MASN executive vice president arguing in an affidavit obtained by The Post that the panel did not follow established protocol for determining rights fees.

The affidavit also alleged that the Nationals are trying to dissolve MASN and obtain their own TV rights.

“During the RSDC appeal on April 3, 2012, I was present when counsel to the Nationals expressed that the Nationals have been ‘waiting seven years to get our rights back,’” Haley wrote. “Having received MASN’s quarterly financials, annual audited settlements and other partnership financial documents, the Nationals were aware that if the Nationals were to receive the telecast rights fees demanded at the hearing, MASN would be rendered immediately insolvent, a fact that the Nationals’ counsel acknowledged. The Orioles would have been severely financially harmed.”

In their court filings, the Nationals attempted to rebut the Orioles' claims. According to The Post, the Nationals were seeking between $100 to $110 million, while the Orioles were looking to give $35 million.

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The panel that issued the ruling is part of MLB's Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee (RSDC). 

“MASN asserts that the RSDC purportedly was biased in favor of the Nationals, but that assertion cannot be reconciled with the fact that the fair market value of the Nationals’ telecast rights as awarded by the RSDC is on average $58.4 million less per year than the amount requested by the Nationals during the RSDC proceeding – while, at the same time, only $20.1 million more per year on average than the amount MASN advocated. In other words, contrary to any bias in favor of the Nationals, the RSDC award is over $38 million closer to what MASN proposed than what the Nationals proposed.”

The dispute over MASN dates to the Nationals' move from Montreal to Washington in 2005.

A hearing to determine whether the injunction will stay or be removed is scheduled for Monday.

- Chris Johnson

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