The For Sale sign officially went up on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, setting off a bidding war that could end with a record price paid for a major-league baseball team.
The National League club estimates the winning bid for the century-old team, Dodger Stadium and related assets will exceed $1-billion (all currency U.S.), but its rich and famous suitors haven’t been scared away.
After months of pressure from Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, embattled Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt agreed last November to sell the team, signalling an end to an acrimonious 7 ½-year ownership reign. MLB had taken control of the day-to-day operation of the Dodgers last April over concerns about the team’s finances and the way it was being run. McCourt, a former East Coast real estate developer, responded by filing for bankruptcy a few weeks later. The Dodgers had been teetering at the brink of disaster since 2009, when McCourt and his now ex-wife, Jamie, began divorce proceedings.
Opening bids for the team that McCourt purchased in 2004 for $420-million were due on Monday. Blackstone Advisory Partners, the investment bank handling the sale for McCourt, is prepared to receive about 20 bids. The club stated in a U.S. court filing last year that it anticipates bids in excess of $1-billion. Blackstone will send up to 10 potential bidding groups to MLB for approval before the investment bank and McCourt make a final determination. The team is to be sold by April 30, which just happens to coincide with a $131-million divorce settlement McCourt is due to pay his former wife.
A veritable who’s-who of marquee names are lining up to take a swing at Dodgers ownership.
1. Larry King. The former CNN talk show host was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan as a kid and he is heading a group assembled by Dennis Gilbert, a former player agent who is the chief executive officer of Imperial Capital, a Los-Angeles based investment banking giant.
2. Magic Johnson. Best known for his starring role with that other Los Angeles sports enterprise – the Lakers – Johnson is said to have a net worth of $500-million. Johnson is thought to have additional financial backing from Guggenheim Partners, a private financial services firm. Stan Kasten, former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, is also involved in the bid.
3. Mark Cuban. The Internet entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner has already been shut out in his efforts to purchase the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. Cuban has confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that he’ll be there with an open chequebook. Forbes magazine estimates Cuban’s net worth at $2.3-billion.
4. Joe Torre. The former Dodgers manager from 2008 to 2010 resigned as MLB executive vice-president for baseball operations to join a bidding group financed by Rick Caruso, a Los Angeles real estate developer.
5. Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser. These former Dodgers greats are banking on their reputations to help win control of the franchise, teaming with Joey Herrick, president of Natural Balance Pet Foods. Said Herrick: “Garvey and Hershiser are the fastest way to bring the fans back and bring a championship back.”
6. Peter O’Malley. The former Dodgers owner and sentimental favourite, who sold the team in 1998 to News Corp. (which later sold it to McCourt), has been making noises that he is planning to put together an ownership group. “It’s a jewel,” O’Malley told The New York Times in a recent interview. “Its place in the community has always been as one of the most prestigious organizations, but sadly, that hasn’t been the case for the past few years.”
7. Tom Barrack. A former University of South California rugby player heads Colony Capital, a Santa Monica, Calif., firm that controls $34-billion in assets, according to Forbes.
8. Disney. The family of the late Roy E. Disney is reportedly in talks with other investors about making an ownership move on the Dodgers. Disney was the nephew of empire founder Walt Disney, but the family’s investments are not directly tied to the operation of Walt Disney Co., which controlled the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from 1998 through 2003.
9. Steve Cohen. The Connecticut-based billionaire hedge-fund manager is another serious suitor. Cohen was unsuccessful last year when he tried to purchase a minority share of the New York Mets. Cohen’s group has already hired a firm to look into the possible renovation of Dodger Stadium and influential sports agent Arn Tellem is said to be in line to run the Dodgers if Cohen wins the auction.