SBD/April 20, 2011/Franchises

Dodgers Hire Steve Soboroff As Vice Chair To Improve Fan Experience At Ballpark

Soboroff's duties with Dodgers will include strengthening ties to the L.A. community
The Dodgers, in the "latest response to criticism over safety issues at Dodger Stadium," have hired former L.A. mayoral candidate Steve Soboroff as Vice Chair, with responsibility for "leading efforts to improve the fan experience at the stadium," according to Tony Jackson of ESPN L.A. Soboroff, "who wrote an op-ed piece in support of unpopular Dodgers owner Frank McCourt that appeared in the Los Angeles Times last Sept. 26, will report directly to McCourt." He said that he "wasn't given an ownership stake in the club, nor was he given a contract." Soboroff's responsibilities will include "strengthening ties to the region's community and philanthropic organizations and expanding conservation and sustainability programs at the ballpark." Soboroff "will begin his role immediately and will be in charge of coordinating and implementing the recommendations made by former Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton and his team from the Kroll company." Amid "widespread complaints that the overall atmosphere at the ballpark has taken a turn for the worse in recent years," Soboroff said that he "will take a grassroots approach to changing that culture that begins not at the ballpark, but in the community." Soboroff "plans to meet with fans and other Dodgers stakeholders to hear their ideas for improving the overall experience" (ESPNLA.com, 4/19). Sources said that McCourt, in a meeting to introduce Soboroff to Dodgers employees, "said he would be more involved in the team's day-to-day operations." The sources added that Dodgers COO Geoff Wharton is "being phased out of his role." Wharton "has overseen the Dodgers' business operations since the team parted ways with president Dennis Mannion in October" (L.A. TIMES, 4/20).

POSITIVE FIRST IMPRESSION
: In L.A., Steve Dilbeck noted Soboroff becomes the "seventh current club executive to report directly to McCourt." Soboroff "comes off just like someone who has spent a large portion of their lives in politics would." He is "smooth, bold, unafraid of a little self-promotion and vague when the questions became pointed," and "meeting with reporters in the Dodgers dugout during batting practice, he was Mr. Positive to the max." Soboroff said that he "has seen the Dodgers' financial statements and is convinced McCourt will be able to continue to own the team." Soboroff: "To me that is a non-issue. I can read a balance sheet and I can read an income statement. ... Frank McCourt is financially fine" (LATIMES.com, 4/19).

CLEARING THE AIR: The L.A. TIMES' Dilbeck noted there is an investigation by the California attorney general's office "into more than $400,000 paid to Howard Sunkin" from the Dodgers Dream Foundation, but the team yesterday said that "as a first step they have repaid the salary" to the charity. Sunkin's salary "accounted for one-fourth of the foundation's nearly" $1.6M budget in '07. Sunkin now serves as Dodgers Senior VP/Public Affairs, a position that "would seemingly overlap" with Soboroff's (LATIMES.com, 4/19).
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Los Angeles Dodgers, Franchises

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