SBD/20/Leagues Governing Bodies

MR. MURDOCH JOINS THE CLUB AS MLB APPROVES DODGERS SALE

          In an "unexpectedly one-sided vote," MLB owners
     yesterday "overwhelmingly approved the purchase" of the
     Dodgers by Rupert Murdoch's Fox Group for "about" $311M, the
     "most ever paid for a professional sports franchise,"
     according to Newhan & Hiltzik of the L.A. TIMES.  The vote
     "puts one of baseball's most storied ballclubs in the hands
     of one of the world's most unsentimental and pragmatic
     businessmen."  Despite "rumors that Murdoch's aggressive
     business practices might stir up serious opposition to the
     deal from other owners," only the Braves and White Sox voted
     against the transaction, while the Mets abstained.  Some
     owners were concerned over whether Murdoch "would comply
     with bylaws requiring that" overseas rights to all games be
     negotiated by MLB, not the individual clubs; whether he
     would "bid too aggressively for top players" and if he would
     use his cable deals with 22 teams to "impact the local
     revenues of those clubs."  But the Fox Group "agreed to
     several changes" in its deal with MLB, assuring even Fox's
     "long rumored ... opposition," including Padres Owner John
     Moores and Giants Managing General Partner Peter Magowan. 
     Even Disney, which was expected to abstain, approved the
     deal (L.A. TIMES, 3/20).  Magowan: "They did a good job
     answering our questions" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20).  News Corp.
     President Peter Chernin, on owners' fears that Fox would use
     its 22 local deals to its advantage: "We just sort of
     explained to [other owners] the way these businesses run. 
     That we have so much money invested in Fox Sports Net, that
     we're not going to do anything to jeopardize that by playing
     around with the Dodgers" (CNBC, 3/19).  In Milwaukee, Tom
     Haudricourt writes MLB owners "decided it's best not to bite
     a hand that feeds them" (JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/20).      
     ESPN's Tim Kurkjian: "A lot of owners ... got the idea that
     this isn't necessarily Rupert Murdoch who is buying the
     Dodgers, it's more the Fox Group, which has a very good
     relationship with baseball" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/19).
          THE PLAYERS: In L.A., Jim Newton writes, "Quietly but
     with characteristic determination, Murdoch is burrowing into
     the fabric of Los Angeles, joining its most powerful circle
     of insiders."  But while others are "long steeped" in L.A.'s
     business and political culture, Murdoch is  a "bruising,
     right-wing outsider" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20).  Also in L.A.,
     James Bates profiles Chernin and Chase Carey, Murdoch's "top
     two lieutenants," who have "survived and flourished in the
     mogul's Darwinian management culture."  While Carey is
     "somewhat introverted, seemingly more comfortable behind the
     scenes," Chernin is "more comfortable ... mingling with
     Hollywood talent, listening to pitches and making public
     appearances" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20).
          NO TCI INTEREST? While TCI's Liberty Media, partners in
     the Fox Sports RSNs, once had an option to participate in
     Murdoch's purchase, Liberty Media President Robert Bennett
     said they "waived that a while back."  He did not know if
     such an option "might arise again" (DENVER POST, 3/20).
          SOME TV CHANGES, MORE STADIUM SIGNAGE? The Dodgers
     "traditionally" have fewer games on local TV than any other
     team in MLB, but with the Fox Group now in charge, "that is
     going to change," according to Larry Stewart of the L.A.
     TIMES.  The number of cable telecasts will jump from 40 this
     season to 80 in '99.  Fox made that announcement Thursday,
     one day after the settlement of a lawsuit filed by KTLA
     against Fox and the Dodgers last year.  The "settlement
     allows for more cable games."  All 40 Dodger cable telecasts
     will be on Fox Sports West 2, but in the future, some games
     "also could be carried on Fox Sports West."  KTLA will carry
     48 over-the-air games (L.A. TIMES, 3/20)....Dodgers
     President Bob Graziano said that "any other changes, such as
     more signage at Dodgers Stadium and installation of luxury
     boxes will be gradual" (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY, 3/20).   
          NOTES: In L.A., Bill Plascke notes that Murdoch was not
     present at the announcement, as he was in London on
     business, and adds, "Nothing to do now but get used to it." 
     Plascke: "One of our last remaining treasures wasn't simply
     sold Thursday, it was swallowed whole" (L.A. TIMES,
     3/20)...In Chicago, Jim O'Donnell writes that White Sox
     Chair Jerry Reinsdorf's vote against Murdoch "comes off as a
     recalcitrant, stubborn move made with little apparent
     upside."  O'Donnell: "For Jerry Reinsdorf, is the end of his
     reign as an influential sports power man now clearly -- and
     voluntarily -- in sight?" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/20).

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