Former partners claim a conspiracy

NEW YORK -- Lawyers for the former limited partners of the
Montreal Expos plan to ask a federal judge to block major league baseball from moving the team.

The commissioner's office told the U.S. District Court in Miami
on Tuesday that it intends to relocate the Expos for 2005 but did
not specify where. Washington and Northern Virginia are the leading
contenders, and a decision could be announced this month.

Meanwhile, members of baseball's relocation committee met for
11½ hours with District of Columbia government officials Wednesday,
discussing specific details of a possible agreement that would move
the franchise to the nation's capital.

"We're feeling very good," said Bill Hall, chairman of the
D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission's baseball committee. "We
spent 11 hours discussing any and all deal points that baseball
coming to D.C. would involve."

In May 2003, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages required
that baseball give the court 90 days' notice of any attempt to move
or sell the franchise, which was bought by the other 29 teams
before the 2002 season from Jeffrey Loria, who then purchased the
Florida Marlins.

"We have already informed baseball orally that it will be the
intent of my clients to seek a preliminary injunction to preserve
the status quo," Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer for the limited
partners, said Wednesday. "We probably will look for a schedule
for a hearing to be held in November."

In their lawsuit, the 14 limited partners claim Loria and
Marlins president David Samson conspired with baseball officials to
dilute the minority partners' share of the team from 76 percent to
6-to-7 percent and never intended to keep the franchise in

In November 2002, Ungaro-Benages put the racketeering claims
against commissioner Bud Selig on hold, telling the limited
partners to go to arbitration first with their case against Loria.
The arbitration hearing has been completed, but a decision has not
yet been issued.

"We hope the arbitrators will issue their decision prior to the
hearing in November," Kessler said.

The two-page notice, filed with the court Tuesday by baseball's
lawyers, did not give a timetable for a decision.

"Although at this point no decisions as to a relocation site
have been made," the memo said, baseball plans "subject to the
negotiation of satisfactory terms and the affirmative vote of the
major league clubs to relocate the Montreal Expos baseball club in
time for the commencement of the 2005 regular season."

Baseball spokesman Rich Levin declined comment. Bob DuPuy,
baseball's chief operating officer, has called the suit
"frivolous" in the past.

The relocation committee's meeting Wednesday in Washington came
one day after the group met with officials from Northern Virginia
for about 2½ hours.

Several cities -- including Las Vegas; Monterrey, Mexico;
Norfolk, Va.; and Portland, Ore. -- have been in contention for the
Expos, but the relocation committee has focused on the two
Washington-area groups in recent weeks.