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MURDOCH AWAITS APPROVAL TO BUY DODGERS, JOIN MLB FAMILY
Published March 9, 1998
News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch's bid to buy the Dodgers was examined in a front-page feature by Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Sandomir wrote that "absent a late bout of nerves," MLB will by March 19 formally approve the sale to News Corp., an "outfit run by an aggressive, continent-hopping dealmaker with no sentimental or historic attachment to the country's most tradition-bound sport." A CAVEAT OVER REGIONAL DEALS: Murdoch pays "at least" $100M a year for the local cable rights to 22 MLB clubs, and it is News Corp.'s consolidation of "a once balkanized universe of regional sports networks into the Fox Sports Net" that "worries" some MLB people. Murdoch's "substantial investment" in MLB "is seen either as a vote of confidence in the sport's recovery from labor strife or worrisome leverage over his future partners in ownership." Padres President Larry Lucchino said that Fox Sports' "disproportionate influence on two dozen teams through its TV deals creates an opportunity to manipulate the arrangement for political purposes. Fox can say, 'If you don't vote for X, you'll have trouble on your TV deal.'" The Padres and other clubs also "worry" that Fox "will have access to their financial statements and use that knowledge at future television rights negotiations. Or, knowing how important local rights payments are, teams are concerned that Fox can influence the signing of free agents through well-timed extensions of cable rights deals." Fox/Liberty Exec VP Jim Martin: "The teams have the business we need and can get rid of us for another competitor. If we try to influence anybody's votes, the teams ... can tell us to go to hell." Disney's Michael Eisner, on Murdoch: "I can't judge whether he would be a good or a bad owner. But I don't think he would not follow the rules" (N.Y. TIMES,3/6).