Guggenheim, McCourt Finalize Dodgers Sale; New Owners To Be Formally Introduced Today
The Dodgers have scheduled a 1:00pm ET press conference for today in L.A. to introduce Guggenheim Baseball Management, which yesterday closed on its $2.15B purchase of the club. Among those slated to appear are Guggenheim execs Mark Walter, Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, Peter Guber, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly, L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR Rob Manfred, club ambassador Tommy Lasorda and a large contingent of former Dodgers players, including Steve Garvey, who was part of a failed bid for the team. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig late yesterday issued a lengthy statement praising the completion of the highly complex deal and the arrival of Guggenheim. Despite numerous objections from the league during an April 13 bankruptcy court hearing to approve the sale, Selig yesterday said MLB's requirements regarding the installation of new owners "were met." While never specifically mentioning former owner Frank McCourt or their multiple, fractious battles, Selig added, "I am grateful that the unbecoming events of recent years are behind us" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
THE NEW REGIME: In L.A., Bill Shaikin notes Selig's statement "did not address MLB's role in approving McCourt as an owner, or in approving the transaction in which he established a new entity to control the Dodger Stadium parking lots, enabling McCourt to keep half-ownership of the lots even as he sold the team." Meanwhile, sources said that a "teary-eyed McCourt thanked the Dodgers' employees at a morning meeting" yesterday. He also "introduced the staff" to new controlling Owner Mark Walter and new team President Stan Kasten. Shaikin notes no "major changes to the team are expected immediately." The Dodgers' exec departures yesterday "included McCourt and two of his closest lieutenants," Vice Chair Jeff Ingram and Senior VP/Public Affairs Howard Sunkin. Kasten is "expected to evaluate the Dodgers' front office personnel before considering additional changes." GM Ned Colletti "remains in place" (L.A. TIMES, 5/2). Shaikin notes McCourt yesterday also "emailed a letter to the Dodgers' staffers, thanking them for their efforts" (L.A. TIMES, 5/2).
FIELD OF FOCUS: ESPN L.A.'s Ramona Shelburne wrote under the header, "Dodgers Owners Return Focus To Field." Shelburne noted Guggenheim Baseball Management's message is "the same as it's been from this new ownership group throughout the entire process: This isn't about us." After eight years "in which the owners of the team became the dominant story, obscuring every good and bad thing that happened on the baseball field, at the very least it's pretty refreshing." Shelburne wrote the "best owners generally sit quietly up in an ownership suite, make the financial decisions to put the team in position to succeed and let the players on the field shine" (ESPNLA.com, 5/1). MLB Network's Chris said Guggenheim Baseball Partner Magic Johnson is "going to be the face of the franchise." Rose: "He's there to kind of smooth over the rough edges, as far as PR goes. They do need to kind of rebuild that relationship with its fan base, which ... did not draw 3 million fans for the first time since 1992. I think there's some repair job that has to go on there. I think Magic is the perfect guy to do it.” MLB Network's Kevin Millar: “It's Magic Johnson. He's got a great smile. I think the players now have some security they know who owns the club, they know who they're going to answer to.” Rose: “Remember last year, every two weeks we were wondering whether the team could make payroll? Apparently that's not going to be a problem anymore” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 5/1). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Guggenheim Baseball Partner Magic Johnson is the "epitome of showmanship and fun," while McCourt "shows what can happen to someone fundamentally flawed." Meanwhile, Dodgers fans are "ceasing and desisting their picket-line protests along Sunset Boulevard." Many are "driving back over the hill to return to the park" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/2).
PAYING THE TAB: The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin notes the Dodgers' bankruptcy filing "will cost the team more than $30 million, after the team was ordered to pay the legal bills" of MLB. Sources said that McCourt and Guggenheim Baseball "will share responsibility for the more than $10 million in MLB legal bills." The precise amount each side will pay "could not be determined, and final bills have yet to be submitted." A court filing indicated that the Dodgers reported "more than $20 million in 'bankruptcy-related expenses' through February" (L.A. TIMES, 5/2).