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THE NEW YORKER GOES INSIDE THE DODGERS SALE TO NEWS CORP.
Published December 2, 1997
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).