SBD/2/Franchises

THE NEW YORKER GOES INSIDE THE DODGERS SALE TO NEWS CORP.

          News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch's pending acquisition
     of the Dodgers from Owner Peter O'Malley is featured in an
     extensive piece by Connie Bruck of THE NEW YORKER. Murdoch's
     purchase "seems likely to win" MLB approval "in the end, but
     it won't have been easy.  So far, his vetting has been
     fractious and bedevilled by one controversy after another." 
     Bruck: "What makes this transaction so different,
     ultimately, is the identity of the acquirer.  For some in
     baseball it is a hope, and for others it is a fear, but it
     is something on which, in any event, all can agree, once
     Rupert Murdoch gets in the door, the realm of baseball will
     never be the same."  O'Malley, on selling to Murdoch: "He's
     a citizen of L.A., but even more, he's a citizen of the
     world.  He will help internationalize the game more than
     anyone else on the horizon."  But some note the differences
     between Murdoch and O'Malley, and one source with extensive
     dealings with Murdoch equated the pairing to "putting a
     black widow in with a butterfly."  And while Murdoch "has
     urged" O'Malley to stay with the team after the purchase,
     "many people who know Murdoch predict that O'Malley's tenure
     will not be long."  Bruck: "O'Malley is already being spoken
     of disparagingly by a close Murdoch adviser, and a baseball
     official says that Fox executives 'have told me that they're
     replacing Peter with another guy,' adding, 'They will get
     rid of him so fast his head will spin'" (TNY, 12/8 issue).
          TCI'S INTEREST: In September, reports surfaced that
     John Malone's Liberty Media would have a right to buy a half
     interest in the team through Fox/Liberty Sports.  While News
     Corp. President Peter Chernin earlier denied that ownership
     would be shared, a Fox exec told Bruck that, "The deal
     between Liberty and Fox is, we're supposed to be in the
     sports business together -- either one has the option to go
     to fifty per cent."  He added that Liberty still holds the
     right to exercise its option in the deal.  White Sox Owner
     Jerry Reinsdorf, on Malone's interest: "Malone would have to
     be approved too -- and we haven't even started on him."
          FEEL THE LOVE: During MLB's approval process Murdoch's
     associates and O'Malley have "been at pains to stress that
     the buyer is not Murdoch but Fox, apparently on the
     assumption that the more Murdoch can be distanced from the
     process the better."  MLB Acting Commissioner Bud Selig, on
     Murdoch: "He is very controversial.  Owners have concern
     about character.  I have heard it again and again."  Astros
     Owner Drayton McLane, whose team's local cable rights are
     owned by Fox Sports Southwest, on concerns of a conflict of
     interest: "It is absolutely of concern, because it is your
     business partner who is paying you -- and also owns the
     Dodgers."  One Fox exec "agreed that considerable owner
     opposition existed, but he argued that the pressure to vote
     for the deal would be great, considering 'what Fox has done
     for baseball.'"  Bruck concludes that while MLB lacks "a
     strong commissioner, with full powers -- someone with the
     capacity to visualize, chart and navigate its course,"  with
     Murdoch "into this disordered field, it is he who likely
     will be charting that course."  Bruck: "And that means that
     the future -- for the Dodgers, for the game, and certainly
     for the institution of [MLB] -- will be more unpredictable
     than ever before.  The rules will probably not apply; for
     Murdoch, they so often do not" (THE NEW YORKER, 12/8 issue).

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