SBD/April 10, 2012/Franchises

Dodgers Want To Keep Conditions Governing Use Of Land Surrounding Ballpark Confidential

The Dodgers in a document filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court yesterday argued that the team "should not be required to reveal the conditions that govern use of the land surrounding Dodger Stadium," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. The team said those restrictions include "sensitive non-public commercial information" that should remain sealed. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Gross is "set to hear the matter Friday, as part of a hearing in which he is expected to approve the sale of the team." The Dodger Stadium parking lots are jointly owned by former Owner Frank McCourt and Guggenheim Baseball Management through a business entity "that was not part of the bankruptcy filing." The absence of details such as how McCourt "might be involved in the future of the parking lots, and how much money he would receive from them, has frustrated Major League Baseball officials eager for the Dodgers to make a clean break from McCourt ownership" (L.A. TIMES, 4/10). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Andrew Ross Sorkin noted Dodgers controlling Owner and Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter, in addition to company cash, "plans to use money from Guggenheim subsidiaries that are insurance companies -- some state-regulated -- to pay for a big chunk" of his $2.15B purchase of the Dodgers. Sorkin wrote, "Using insurance money -- which is typically supposed to be invested in simple, safe assets -- to buy a baseball team, the ultimate toy for the ultrarich, seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen." Walter has been "somewhat open in acknowledging that Guggenheim’s companies will be tapped, but the investor group has not disclosed how much of the purchase price is coming from individuals." Walter, who has a "fiduciary duty to the firm’s policyholders, plans to pump their money into a baseball team, even though he says he’s not seeking to realize a return on the investment" (NYTIMES.com, 4/9).

WINNING BACK THE FANS: In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote Dodgers investor Magic Johnson is "supposed to have a clue as to how McCourt is perceived in this city," and yet "inexplicably, there was Magic sitting next to McCourt at the season opener in San Diego" last week. Johnson was seemingly "clueless to the fan rage aimed at the man who took the Dodgers into bankruptcy." Dilbeck wrote, "Magic’s gang bid $500 million more than the next group. If anything, McCourt needs to kiss up to Magic. ... The best thing Magic can do is keep a healthy distance from McCourt" (LATIMES.com, 4/9). Also in L.A., Dylan Hernandez notes the Dodgers drew 2.93 million spectators to home games last season, marking the "first time in 16 seasons that attendance was less than 3 million." Dodgers 1B James Loney said that the atmosphere at the ballpark "noticeably changed last season." Loney: "It was a little different, especially night games, not having that many people there." The Dodgers will play their home opener today against the Pirates, but manager Don Mattingly said that it will "take time for the Dodgers to learn whether they have regained the support of fans." Mattingly said, "Opening day probably won't be the best indicator. Opening day is always full of juice, you know. It's always pretty much packed. When you start getting into the regular games, when you get kind of the day-in-day-out-type crowds, that's when I think we're going to find out if it's going to be a little bit different" (L.A. TIMES, 4/10).

HIS NAME IN LIGHTS: On Long Island, Steven Marcus notes Johnson is in N.Y. "promoting the new Broadway show, 'Magic/Bird,' which chronicles his rivalry and ultimate friendship" with Basketball HOFer and Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird. Johnson said of the Dodgers, "I'm happy about the way they are playing and the response from all Dodgers fans from around the country and the world. It's been very positive." While his financial investment in the Dodgers "is said to be small, his involvement could be significant." Dodgers investor Stan Kasten said of Johnson, "He's going to be there with suite sales, sponsorship sales, community relations programs. He's going to be there with players and prospective players. He's going to be there with civic leaders. I can't tell you the hours and the days, but I know he's going to be there" (NEWSDAY, 4/10).
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