Los Angeles Angels owner Arturo Moreno spoke with Forbes about what he bought — and owned — during the market downturn: lots of cash, real estate, and dividend-paying stocks
Baseball mogul Arturo Moreno first bought shares of Alphabet and Amazon six years ago after his daughter “convinced” him to invest in the two tech heavyweights. As stock valuations have fallen in recent weeks, Moreno saw a buying opportunity. In May, he bought an additional 3,000 shares of Alphabet, bringing his stake to 13,000 shares, worth about $31 million. Moreno also uploaded more Amazon shares; he owns a $9 million stake in the e-commerce retailer.
“I love the daily use of these products,” said Moreno. Forbes, explaining his no-nonsense approach to investing. “How do you go a day without using Google? And it seems like every day we get a gift from Amazon on our doorstep.
Moreno, a self-proclaimed conservative investor who pays close attention to price-earnings ratios, says he has about $780 million in cash or cash equivalents, compared to just over $300 million in stocks. Beyond his few bets on Alphabet and Amazon, Moreno has long favored so-called “value stocks” that pay quarterly dividends to shareholders. “The changes I’ve made have really been towards lower PEs and a good return on dividends,” he says.
Moreno recently added to his largest holding, JP Morgan, buying 25,000 shares in March and another 25,000 in May. Moreno now owns 375,000 shares of the Wall Street bank, worth about $43 million. He also owns about $12 million worth of shares in rival Morgan Stanley and positions in oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron. Moreno says his investment portfolio generates between $11 million and $12 million in annual dividend income.
“With inflation and people looking for safety over the next 12 to 18 months, you’re going to see more people moving into safer investments and looking for a better return. [through dividends]“, he predicts.
Dividends are one of the reasons why, in May, Moreno bought another 100,000 shares of AT&T. He now owns about $26 million worth of stock. Moreno also retains a significant position in Verizon. The reasoning behind his trust in the two largest US wireless networks is the same as his investments in Alphabet and Amazon: simple logic: “Everyone has a cell phone.”
Moreno, 77, first made his fortune in the billboard advertising business. In 1999, he sold his company Outdoor Systems to Infinity Broadcasting for $8.7 billion, pocketing around $1.4 billion himself. Today, much of Moreno’s fortune is tied to the Los Angeles Angels, which he bought for a hair under $184 million in 2003. The Major League baseball team is now worth around 2 billions of dollars, debt included, Forbes estimates – up 9% from last year and an elevenfold gain for Moreno in less than two decades.
“The fairness part [of the team] skyrocketing,” says Moreno, who attributes the Angel’s rising valuation to Americans’ pent-up demand for entertainment, after years of sheltering at home during the pandemic. “For us in the baseball business, it’s about getting people to the ballpark.”
Real estate is another favorite asset of Moreno. He says he owns about $500 million worth of undeveloped land, shopping malls and apartment buildings in Phoenix, the nation’s fastest growing city, and Southern California. “For the real estate we own, the offers we’ve had have been pretty crazy,” Moreno says, citing growing investor demand for real estate assets. “I think there was a bubble.”
But Moreno thinks the real estate market still has room to manoeuvre. He is looking for opportunities in the commercial sector. “I would say my focus, probably over the next 36 to 48 months, will be real estate,” he says. “I just think there are going to be buying opportunities.”
Moreno began investing in land and real estate after selling his billboard company in 1999. It’s an asset class he’s long been bullish on, but increasingly as the Federal Reserve tightens the money supply. “For young people, I always recommend buying something where they have some kind of equity,” he says. “I call it, buy a piece of rock.”
Moreno’s most high-profile real estate deal — a deal he struck with the city of Anaheim in 2019, to buy Angel Stadium and its accompanying 150-acre lot — has fallen apart in dramatic fashion. last month as former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu became the center of attention. of an FBI corruption investigation in connection with the stadium deal. The Anaheim City Council voted unanimously to cancel the transaction. The outcome of the deal was “strictly political”, insists Moreno, who declined to discuss specifics. Moreno is a longtime Republican donor who has backed both of Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election bids.
Despite the collapse of the stadium deal, Moreno was happy to get his $50 million back in escrow, which is now part of his sizable cash pile. For now, he’s keeping that money in cash, waiting to see if the Federal Reserve can get inflation under control: “I think there will be, in the next 24 to 36 months, an opportunity to start reinvesting in this [stock] market,” he said. “Maybe 12 or 18 months.”
If those timelines seem imprecise, it’s because Moreno doesn’t claim to be a market whiz. “It’s almost impossible to find the bottom, and almost impossible to find the top,” says the billboard billionaire turned baseball mogul, describing his investment philosophy. “You just have to say, are you ready to stick with something long term?”