Yesterday was the "soft" deadline for potential new owners to submit their initial bids to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. The sale agreement calls for Frank McCourt to present the winning bid by April 1st, and the sale to be closed by April 30th. There are a rumored 10-12 interested parties, and I thought it was finally time to take a closer look at just who might be the new owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It's a very diverse group, starting with a collaboration of local public figures, Dodger legends, some big corporations, and a few fellas that have a seriously ridiculous amount of money. Most of these guys you have never heard of, with the exception of Mark Cuban, and the ones you have heard of aren't worth a whole lot of money on their own.
Probably the next biggest question is how much is the team going to sell for? That's a very difficult question these days. I've seen numbers that range from $1BB to $1.8BB, so your guess is as good as mine. Really though most analysts are saying the days of $1.2BB are long gone, and that $1.5BB is probably the starting point. When you get as many bidders going at it as the Dodgers do right now, things could definitely get to that $1.8BB number I've seen over the last few days. Remember this as you look through some of these bidders, it's not just about the final selling price. It's like the new owner is going to hand over the money and dust his shoulder off. There is some serious damage control once the new owner takes over. The fans are not happy right now, there are some stadium upgrades that desperately need to be done, starting with some brand new restrooms. The team payroll could go up $20MM-$50MM, as the Dodgers need to get Clayton Kershaw locked up long-term, re-sign Andre Ethier, and after missing out on Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, a first-baseman will have to be found to replace James Loney, and an offensive upgrade should be in the works, and the Dodgers could be in line to make a huge splash perhaps as soon as the July trade deadline. But of course before the Dodgers are able to do that, the new owner is hopefully going to have fired Ned Colletti and found his replacement. But that's not all, there is lots and lots of work to be done. So how much is too much? Are all of these guys really qualified to purchase and run the Dodgers the way Bud Selig wants? Time to find out.
Perhaps one of the richest, if not the richest independent bidder in the group. He's a hedge fund guru worth over $8BB, and Cohen has been rumored to be partnering up with Art Tellem and Steve Greenberg. Tellem was a long-time player agent, you might remember in 1995 he found the "voluntary retirement" loophole in Hideo Nomo's contract that allowed Nomo to leave Japan and sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tellem also recently orchestrated the brutal around-the-clock negotiations between the Texas Rangers and Yu Darvish. Greenberg was a former MLB deputy commissioner, so the two of them would provide the baseball cognition to the group to create one of the powerhouse favorites.
On the flip-side we got an East Coast group that has deep pockets but very little knowledge about baseball, and the Dodgers in general, and to make matters worse Cohen has never even been to a Dodger game. This to me is McCourt all over again. A lot of analysts out there are pinning Cohen as one of the very top favorites, but I don't think Selig and MLB are as enthused. He doesn't appear to have any love for baseball, but Cohen will certainly help drive the price up for McCourt. The reality is between his brutally nasty divorce and the fact that his firm is under investigation for insider trading, I see this group as McCourt 2.0 and I hope the Dodgers and MLB can steer clear of this group entirely.
Rick Caruso/Joe Torre
Caruso is another one of those deep pocketed guys you know very little about. Caruso is a Los Angeles native, and loves the city of Los Angeles. Caruso has an estimated net-worth of $1.7BB. Caruso made his millions with his company Caruso Affliated, a real estate development company based out of Los Angeles. In addition to making a run at buying the Los Angeles Dodgers, Caruso, is also considering running for mayor of Los Angeles in 2013. His real estate development background could certainly come in handy as we all know how much Dodger Stadium needs a nice face-lift.
There aren't many more names that scream baseball louder than Joe Torre. Torre has a wealth of baseball knowledge and success, and most of all knows how to win a World Series. He's got over 50 years of experience and has the support of baseball fans of any age. He's extremely popular in the baseball realm, even though he's been primarily an East Coast guy, there is no doubt he loves Los Angeles, and he loves the Dodgers. The better part is that this is certainly a two-way street, as there is no doubt the Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles love him equally as much. Then you have the relationship between Torre and Selig, and nobody is as close to the MLB Commissioner as Torre is, and this will certainly play into their favor.
On the flip-side, I have some concerns, some serious concerns. My first concern is the cash, does Caruso really have enough to be a serious bidder? Furthermore, does he have the cash to make all the necessary changes and make the Dodgers franchise profitable again. Another thing I am having a hard time with is to me Caruso and Torre seem too "old school" for me. A lot of things have to happen to get the fans' trust again, starting with the firing of Ned Colletti. I'm not sure of the relationship between Colletti, his front office staff and Joe Torre, but I am very concerned that the much needed housecleaning might not take place. In fact, my gut feeling is that this would almost certainly help Colletti stay on board. How Torre secretly feels about Colletti I don't know, but on the outside it seems like they had a very good relationship. Torre was working with Colletti on a lot of the questionable things that have happened over the last few years. I can always hope Torre recruits Kim Ng back to the Dodgers as these two worked very well together when they were with the Dodgers, and they had a very good relationship when they worked together in Commissioner Selig's office. Obviously the big issue here is the cash, but this group is certainly at the top of the list. Perhaps another partner gets involved, or there is more here than we see, because I just can't believe Torre would quit his job with Bud Selig to take a long-shot at purchasing the Dodgers.
Time Warner Cable
I'm trying to look for some positive things to say here but I'm struggling. Sure they got a lot of money, billions and billions of it. TWC would instantly make the Dodgers in play for every single player in baseball. The Dodgers would be the MLB's West Coast powerhouse. But there is more to it than just that. It's Los Angeles, it's baseball, it's Dodger baseball. Do you remember when Fox owned the Dodgers? It was a nightmare. Mike Piazza got traded and things went downhill in a hurry. Ticket prices soared, parking, concession stands, the whole thing was a mess. Sure TWC is a powerhouse corporation that certainly doesn't have to worry about making payroll like McCourt did, but TWC cares just as much about the Dodgers as McCourt did. Remember actions speak louder than words, and when TWC talks all you hear is cash is king. They don't care about Los Angeles, the history of the franchise, heck they don't care about the Dodgers at all. They see dollar signs plain and simple. They don't know how to run a baseball team, they know how to run a business, and it scares me to think if these bigshots took over as owners. It really seems like all TWC cares about is the television rights, and if they can secure ownership of the Dodgers, guarantee television rights, they just landed a multi-billionare operation.
Disney Family/Stanley Gold/Peter O'Malley
Probably the newest name of the bunch and one of the more interesting ones as well. Gold is another Los Angeles native who made his name for himself by pushing Michael Eisner out of the Walt Disney Company. He is said to love baseball, as he has a baseball collection in his private home with personalized autographs of Babe Ruth and Stan Musial. You might remember when the Disney Family owned the Angels of Anaheim, and back in 2002 brought them to their first ever World Series Championship. They are certainly one of my favorites. The Disney family loves baseball, they love success, they love to win, and they have a proven business model on running a successful and profitable business and baseball team. The only thing I don't love is the lack of baseball experience, sure 1996-2003 is some good experience. I have heard rumors that Peter O'Malley and Disney may be joining forces for what would make them one of the heavy favorites.
Peter O'Malley brings a whole to the table. The O'Malley family is the one of the most powerful and influential owners in the history of baseball. They owned the Dodgers from 1950-1998, and Peter owned the team from 1979-1998 when he sold the team to Rupert Murdoch/Fox Corp. Peter O'Malley was known for running the Dodgers as one of the most professional owners in all of sports. He was highly respected, operating the team in a consistent, profitable way, with great values, a style that was known as "The Dodger Way." I've long felt that it was time to get back to "The Dodger Way," and I really think the time is now. O'Malley loves Los Angeles, he loves the Dodgers, and there is no doubt he bleeds blue. He has been very outspoken about his desire to buy his old team back, and he has also been very opinionated about how he feels about Frank McCourt. This guy wants to get the Dodgers back to a World Series, he wants the fans to be happy again, he wants to sell out every game, he's ready to make it happen. I would have no reluctance about O'Malley coming back, especially if backed by someone as wealthy as the multi-billionare Disney family. He's the one person I can count on to clean house, starting with firing that donkey we got running our front office.
Magic Johnson/Stan Kasten/Mark Walter
There are few bigger names in the history of Los Angeles bigger than Magic Johnson, and he remains a very popular public figure even today. Johnson currently owns part of the Cincinnatti's farm team, the Dayton Dragons, perhaps the most successful farm team in all of baseball. Johnson is partnering up with Stan Kasten, long-time President of the Atlanta Braves, which propelled him to being one of the most respected men in baseball. Yep, he's got a very nice track record, while President of the Braves he won 12 straight division titles, 5 National League pennants, and the 1995 World Series. Walter is the head of Guggenheim Partners, an investment firm with an estimated $125BB in holdings. Magic went out and recruited some pretty big guns, as Buster Olney recently put it, "their 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, who recently sold his ownership share of the Los Angeles Lakers, would work as a president or vice president on both the business side and in recruiting players, when needed." I'm sold!
On the flip-side...uhhh wait there isn't any. Johnson brings the winning tradition, the love of Los Angeles, and face of the franchise that isn't a deep pocketed weasel. Kasten provides some of the best baseball experience available right now, and Walter has $125BB to write check after check to get this franchise back on track.
Gilbert is a former player agent and current executive with the Chicago White Sox organization. Gilbert is a longtime season ticket holder and is a very respected professional in the world of baseball. His credentials are just as solid as Kasten's and knows the game of baseball. Gilbert tried to purchase the Texas Rangers last season, but obviously things didn't go his way. Gilbert is backed by Los Angeles investors Jason Reese and Randy Wooster.
The flip-side here is that I am skeptical just how competitive this group can be. This is the Los Angeles Dodgers and I am convinced that there is enough financial backing here. I couldn't find any financial numbers and that concerned me. Gilbert has solid baseball experience and a lot of appeal, but I'm just sure if these guys will be able to hang with the big boys.
I am really not sure where to begin with this guy. He's definitely a love him or hate him kinda guy, and he has one of our planets biggest egos, however, he is young, charesmatic, and has a great business sense. He has a net worth of $2.5BB and Cuban is more than capable of pulling this off all on his own. He loves being in the public, chilling at local bars with fans, and he would likely come into Los Angeles and immediately win the fans over with his "in your face" way of doing things. He likes to go big, bold, and has the ability to put the Dodgers back on top. After all he turned the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA's equivalent of the Kansas City Royals, into the 2011 NBA World Champions. He knows what it takes to win, he's not afraid to spend money, his 2011 NBA Champion Mavericks had the NBA's third highest payroll at $85.8MM. It's hard to argue his love for baseball after bidding on both the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs, so at least the passion and desire are there.
On the flip-side, I don't think Bud Selig is Cuban's number one fan. I think these two would butt heads and I am not convinced Selig will ever let Cuban into baseball. I like the idea of Cuban, I'm just not optimistic of his chances being very high. Probably my biggest concern is that he has no baseball experience and he has no history with Los Angeles in any way. I'm also concerned that already owning the Dallas Mavericks perhaps Cuban is biting off more than he can chew. I also have some concerns about the billions of dollars that it would take to own two franchises. $2.5BB is a lot of money don't get me wrong, but when you use $1.5BB minimum to buy the Dodgers that doesn't really leave a whole lot of money to operate two powerhouse franchises. I'm guessing Cuban may get some investors involved but then that just complicates things and turns one of Cuban's bigger pro's of being independently successful into a con. So as the selling price of the Dodgers increases I expect Cuban's chances of owning the Dodgers to decrease.
Outside of these guys you also have some rumored names that haven't made any formal interest or bids quite yet. Orel Hershiser, Steve Garvey, Josh Macciello, Fox Corporation, Tony Ressler, Larry King, and former Dodgers GM Fred Claire. For what it's worth I am very anti all of the above. Claire, Hershisher, and Garvey are more likely to catch on and form a partnership than to buy the team independently. Fox is the worst idea out of any of the potentials, they are Time Warner times ten, and Ressler, don't really know who he is and I can't find anything about him really. Larry King, ummm, really?
The Wall Street Journal reported that New York investors Leo Hindery and Marc Utay submitted a joint bid. Hindery and Utay tried to buy the Chicago Cubs in their last sale but were obviously unsuccessful.
So that's where we are at. I expect as time passes that some of these groups will likely join forces or grab some of those aforementioned names to gain an edge against the competition. My personal favorite is the group led by Magic Johnson. They have the right mix in my opinion, the local presence, the experience, the necessary billions, and the desire to win. After them it's the Disney family paired with O'Malley and then the Torre/Caruso tandem. I expect a lot of details and information to surface this week so I guess you could say business is about to pick up.
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