Dodgers sold to Magic Johnson's group
NBA Hall of Famer and partners win club with $2 billion bid
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A deal has been struck between the Dodgers and legendary Laker Magic Johnson's bidding group for the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium for $2 billion, the club announced on Tuesday night. The purchase price is the highest amount ever paid for a North American sports franchise.
The sale officially is to Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC, which includes Mark R. Walter as its controlling partner, Johnson, Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly. Current owner Frank McCourt and certain affiliates of the purchasers will also be forming a joint venture, which will acquire the Chavez Ravine property and parking lots for an additional $150 million.
"I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles," said Johnson.
"It is extraordinarily exciting for Major League Baseball that Magic Johnson, a beloved figure in Los Angeles and around the world, has entered into an agreement, along with Guggenheim CEO Mark Walter and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten, that would make them a part of our national pastime," MLB Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said in a statement.
"I believe that a man of Magic's remarkable stature and experience can play an integral role for one of the game's most historic franchises, in a city where he is revered. Major League Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities, and Magic Johnson is a living embodiment of so many of the ideals that are vital to our game and its future.
"The interest in this franchise and its historic sale price are profound illustrations of the great overall health of our industry. This has been a long, difficult process, and I once again want to thank the great Dodger fans for their loyalty and patience."
The deal will be presented to bankruptcy judge Kevin Gross next month for an expected approval. The price would set a new mark for a sports franchise, topping the sale of the NFL's Miami Dolphins to Stephen Ross ($1.1 billion) in 2009 and of the Manchester United soccer club in England by Malcolm Glazer and his family ($1.47 billion) in 2005.
"This transaction underscores the Debtors' objective to maximize the value of their estate and to emerge from Chapter 11 under a successful Plan of Reorganization, under which all creditors are paid in full," the Dodgers said in a release.
"This agreement with Guggenheim reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community," said McCourt. "We are delighted that this group will continue the important work we have started in the community, fulfilling our commitment to building 50 Dream Fields and helping with the effort to cure cancer."
General manager Ned Colletti said he was "thrilled" the bidding process was concluded and looked forward to working with the new ownership group. Colletti has a contract for an unspecified time, with an out at the end of this year. He said he exchanged emails Tuesday night with Kasten, who is expected to be the club president.
"When you're talking about Magic and Stan Kasten, you're talking about people that have been a part of many championship clubs," said Colletti. "Magic and Vin Scully are two of the biggest names in the history of Los Angeles sports. It's important how deep in L.A. roots this group brings. In Magic, he's not only a Hall of Fame basketball player, but a great businessman in the city. It's a great combination."
Kasten, a graduate of NYU and Columbia Law School, ran the Atlanta Braves during their remarkable 14-year playoff run, the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL. He later ran the Washington Nationals. Colletti said he had dinner with Kasten after he toured the Dodgers' Spring Training complex at Camelback Ranch two weeks ago.
"He's successful, relentless in his pursuit of excellence and tireless," Colletti said of Kasten. "At one time, he was in charge of three teams. You look at what he's accomplished and you wonder how one man can accomplish all of it. He knows a lot, he's seen a lot and he's won a lot."
Other than upgrading the Dodgers' presence in Latin America, where the Dodgers have fallen far behind after a long history of signing top talent from there, Colletti would not detail specifics of his conversations with Kasten, other than to assure fans that the resumes of the new owners indicate a commitment to winning.
"You think about Stan and Magic, they are guys that have won a lot. It's paramount with what they do," Colletti said. "They are all about winning. We're a good club with a chance to be better than good. Look at what Stan did in Atlanta, it's pretty impressive. Magic, in a lot of areas, has been remarkable. This group, and what I know of Guggenheim, they're about top-shelf people, top-shelf entertainment. They are very, very focused on being the absolute best."
The Dodgers entered bankruptcy last June when they couldn't meet player payroll or pay bills after MLB Commissioner Bud Selig declined to approve a $3 billion agreement between FOX and the Dodgers to extend their television broadcast rights.
Based on a settlement with MLB and overseen by the bankruptcy court, McCourt had until April 1 to identify a winning bidder. The deal must close by April 30, the same day McCourt must pay his former wife, Jamie McCourt, a $131 million divorce settlement.
There were three final bidders in the auction run by Blackstone Advisory Partners on behalf of McCourt -- the winning group of Guggenheim, Johnson and Kasten; billionaires Steven Cohen and Patrick Soon-Shiong and agent Arn Tellem; and Stan Kroenke, owner of the St. Louis Rams.
The McCourts bought the Dodgers in 2004 from FOX for a net purchase price of $371 million. With the $2 billion for the team and stadium, plus $300 million for the surrounding land and parking lots, the selling price is a total of $2.3 billion, just shy of $2 billion appreciation in eight years.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.