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Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson announced Friday that he has joined forces with Guggenheim Baseball Management "in hopes of buying the Dodgers," according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. Johnson will serve "as the point man for a group that will be backed by the prestigious Guggenheim brand and led by respected veteran baseball executive Stan Kasten." Plaschke noted the complete list of bidders "hasn't emerged, but at this early point it would be difficult to find a group with a stronger combination of deep pockets, a deep Los Angeles connection, and deep affection for the Dodgers." Johnson said Friday, "The Dodgers have been so important to this community for so many years, for so many reasons. I've lived through it all like everyone else and I want to make them great again." Plaschke noted in searching for the "right fit for his Dodgers dreams, Johnson researched six prospective bidders," but when he "met Mark Walter, Guggenheim's CEO, he was convinced." Johnson said, "Listening to Walter talk about winning, it was like listening to Jerry Buss. He told me three times, all I want to do is get to the World Series. I know great owners, and this guy can be a great owner." Johnson's decision "was clinched by the presence of Kasten" (L.A. TIMES, 12/3). Johnson said that the group's "ownership of the Dodgers -- if it happens -- would work this way: Walter would write the big checks; Kasten would oversee the baseball operations; and Johnson ... would work as a president or vice president on both the business side and in recruiting players, when needed." ESPN.com's Buster Olney noted the sale process for the Dodgers "could begin as soon as next week, when financial details of the team will be released to prospective buyers." The Lakers "would love to see Johnson with a large ownership role in the Dodgers." Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak "regularly speaks with Johnson, who has said he'll never leave his influential role behind the scenes with the Lakers and the Buss family." Johnson said that he "intends to reach out to baseball commissioner Bud Selig sometime after the winter meetings" (ESPN.com, 12/2).
MAGIC TOUCH: In DC, Adam Kilgore noted it "became something of an open secret in the sport that Kasten would bid to buy the Dodgers." Kasten this year "sold his ownership stake in the Nationals, formally allowing himself to pursue other opportunities." The cost to buy the Dodgers "could reach as high as $1 billion, but an individual close to Kasten said he is confident the astronomical asking price will not be an issue for the group" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/2). But in L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote Johnson's decision to join the ownership group "makes as much sense as Sandy Koufax deciding he needs to take over the Lakers." The "fact that Magic says he's sifted through the applications of six potential ownership groups ... shows only that he's been doing some wise political networking." Hoffarth noted as the list "grows by the hour of credible businessmen who are apt to step up and lend their names and wallets toward ownership of the Dodgers, Magic Johnson can't be taking himself seriously." Hoffarth: "Go ahead and be part of some kind of ownership group that's trying to bring the NFL back to L.A. Start something new. Just don't be thinking blue" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/3).
BACK TO REALITY: FSN late Friday filed deposition notices for Selig, MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR Rob Manfred and Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt, continuing its ongoing battle with the club over media rights. The deposition notices arrive in advance of a key hearing beginning Wednesday in Wilmington, Del., which may decide the future of the rights. McCourt, as part of ongoing efforts to sell the club by April, wants an accelerated auction for the rights beginning immediately. FSN is aiming to protect its existing contract, stipulating for an exclusive renegotiation period not beginning until late next year. But the deposition notices, also served to Dodgers CFO Peter Wilhelm and Assistant Treasurer Jeffrey Ingram, are believed to be connected to a separate FSN legal push to have the club dismissed from bankruptcy, which is scheduled to have its own hearing Dec. 27. It is not yet certain whether the MLB or Dodgers execs served will fight the depositions sought by FSN. But given the league's stated neutrality on the Dodgers-FSN fight, and the club's obvious opposition, voluntary cooperation is not likely (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted the FSN-Dodgers television contract indicates that "Fox Sports West 2 -- Prime Ticket’s official name -- paid the team $14.7 million in 2002 and $15.4 million in 2003 to show 80 games each year." The rest of the games "were carried on a local broadcast station." By '04, the deal "required showing 100 telecasts on Fox/Prime." For that, the rights fee in '04 "rose to $25 million." Payments then rose "about 5 percent annually, hitting $30.4 million in 2008." In '13, the "last year of the contract, the Dodgers are to receive $38.8 million." Sandomir noted when a new deal "is done -- and approved by the team’s new owner -- the Dodgers will receive far more money from their local cable TV deal than they have been receiving" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/4).
CRITICAL MISTAKES? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ashby Jones notes thanks to the "high-profile nature of the McCourts' divorce proceedings, the dispute involving the law firm, Bingham McCutchen LLP, and Mr. McCourt has gone public." At the "heart of conflict is whether Mr. McCourt suffered any harm as a result of what he alleges was a mistake on Bingham's part, and if so, how much" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/5).
The Marlins and SS Jose Reyes "agreed to terms on a six-year deal that will reportedly pay him $102 million, the largest contract the Marlins have ever given to a player," according to Clark Spencer of the MIAMI HERALD. The Mets were reportedly "willing to give Reyes no more than [a] five-year deal worth $75 to $80 million" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/5). The Reyes signing comes after the Marlins last week signed P Heath Bell to a three-year, $27M contract, and the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa notes it appears the Marlins, who have "long been among baseball's thriftiest teams, have the cash to back up their recruiting efforts" this offseason. Marlins President David Samson said last week, "Clearly, with the new ballpark opening in 2012, we have an opportunity to capture more revenue, and we're putting that directly into payroll. We're able to talk to players that in the past we wouldn't have an opportunity to speak with." But Costa notes for the Mets, losing Reyes "represents a dramatic role reversal" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/5). MLB Network’s John Hart said the Marlins are "projecting their revenue." Hart: "It’s going to be interesting for fans to come out and get their arms around it. There’s going to be a lot more people coming in, corporate sales, there’s going to be merchandising sales, signage, all of that is going to be revenue that they’re projecting. And what they’re doing, they’re taking that revenue and they’re going to put this into players.” MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds said, “To have a dome stadium, all of a sudden now you can plan the game will be played, and you can sell that. … They’re not all coming from Miami, people are driving from all over Florida to come to a ball game and if you plan it you’re saying, ‘We don’t know if it’s going to rain or not,’ why are you going? … The game will be played and that’s important” (“Hot Stove,” MLB Network, 12/2).
THE LOST BOYS: In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes the loss of Reyes "is an indictment of [Mets Owners] the Wilpons' collapsing empire." Klapisch: "Is there any remaining doubt the Wilpons are too broke to operate a major-market team?" (Bergen RECORD, 12/5). ESPN N.Y.'s Rob Parker writes the Mets' "below-market offer of $90 million for six years wasn't going to get it done and fell way short." The Mets can "act surprised when they see Reyes holding up that Marlins jersey at a news conference." They can "try to convince Mets fans that they did their best to hold onto what many thought would be a piece of their winning puzzle for a long time." But "none of it is true." The Mets "now need a new plan." If management "was serious about trying to build a team to win another championship, it should have started the process by dealing Reyes." Parker: "Instead, they lost him. Just terrible. Just the Mets" (ESPNNY.com, 12/5). The N.Y. Post's Bart Hubbuch wrote on his Twitter feed, "I covered a Marlins game in '09 where we literally counted 326 people in the stands. For Mets to be outbid by that team is beyond absurd."
The Suns on Friday were expected to start launch “one of the league's first localized ad campaigns, if ... not the first one,” since a tentative agreement to end the lockout was reached, according to Paul Coro of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The team was to begin running "Time to Rise" ads in print and radio commercials voiced by team announcer Al McCoy. City billboards are “coming too with the back image of Steve Nash with arms extended inside the flame wings of the Phoenix bird.” Nash “remains the face of the franchise for everyone who doubted he would continue to be this season.” Suns President Brad Casper said, "It's a call to get on with it and elevate our game. We all had this emotional, visceral reaction to it (the slogan 'Time to Rise'). It's harkening back to Rocky Balboa days. There's something about someone with their hands in the air." Casper said that the Suns staff “is aware it has to win some Suns fans and this soft multimedia approach is just the beginning, especially with some leaguewide ventures that will be coming out too” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/2).
THINKING BIG: The Bobcats took out a full-page ad in yesterday’s Charlotte Observer touting the team’s Open House event on Thursday. The ad included the copy, “Big things are coming!” The tag is part of the NBA’s leaguewide ad campaign that will run across all NBA broadcast and social media platforms (THE DAILY).
ESPN CHICAGO's Bruce Levine reported Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts "came out in strong support of his president of business operations Crane Kenney on Saturday, to the point that he said the team is working on a contract extension for the at times maligned executive." Ricketts said of Kenney Saturday on ESPN Radio 1000 Chicago, "He's considered one of the best presidents in baseball. Since we started working together, I've been consistently impressed with his ability to handle all the issues of the team, and still keep his eyes on the horizon of what we can do to get better." In addition to "leading the Cubs' efforts to refurbish Wrigley Field, Kenney has been the team's front man on putting in a new spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz., as well as working with other front-office staff to build and develop a complex in the Dominican Republic" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 12/3).
BUILDING THE FARM: In Dallas, Evan Grant notes heading into this week's winter meetings, Rangers front office execs will "try to get a better handle on how deeply new rules in the collective bargaining agreement with players will impact their international and amateur scouting program." After using a "haul of draft picks in 2007 to accelerate a rebuilding process that continually has slid them lower and lower in the draft pecking order, the Rangers have turned increasingly to international scouting to supplement their talent pool." Rangers GM Jon Daniels said he thinks the new rules "might impact a team’s ability to accelerate the building process" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/5).
TAX EVASION: In N.Y., Joel Sherman noted the Yankees have said that they "are driven to have a payroll of $189 million or less in 2014 when that becomes the luxury tax threshold" because the "incentives that come via the new CBA are just too great for them to ignore." Under the new agreement, if the Yankees "are at $189 million or less for the three seasons from 2014-16, they not only avoid paying one cent in luxury tax, which would rise to 50 percent for them as repeat offenders, but they also would get roughly $40 million in savings via the to-be-implemented market disqualification revenue sharing program." Even if they "just went under $189 million for 2014 before going over again in 2015," they would get "about $10 million in the revenue sharing disqualification program" (N.Y. POST, 12/4).