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02/16/12 12:05 AM EST

Dodgers bidders to meet with MLB committee

Estimated 10 prospective buyers and their groups to be vetted

LOS ANGELES -- The vetting process for prospective buyers of the Dodgers will include meetings next month with Major League Baseball's ownership committee, the committee's chairman told The Associated Press.

Bill Bartholomay, chairman emeritus of the Atlanta Braves, said the investigating process not only will include each group's lead participants, but also limited partners and corporate investors.

A spokesman for MLB did not confirm or deny the report.

The committee consists of Bartholomay, Baltimore Orioles chairman Peter Angelos, St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt, Seattle Mariners chairman emeritus John Ellis, Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, New York Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and New York Mets chairman Fred Wilpon.

Background and credit checks are standard for the transfer of a franchise, but the process for the sale of the Dodgers is unique in that current owner Frank McCourt will select the winning offer.

A reported 11 bidders made it past the first round and will be asked to submit new bids this month. McCourt is expected to trim that number to five and submit them to MLB for vetting, before another round of bidding leads to the final selection, which must be approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross.

Groups still in the bidding feature iconic frontmen like Magic Johnson and Joe Torre, as well as Wall Street titans like Steven Cohen and Mark Walter, Rams owner Stan Kroenke, former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley and a number of billionaires.

Through the agreement McCourt reached with MLB to sell the club, the winning bidder must be identified by April 1 and the sale must close by April 30, the date McCourt must pay former wife Jamie McCourt $131 million in a divorce settlement.

The sale process was approved as part of the court-supervised plan to take the Dodgers out of bankruptcy protection and assure full payment to all creditors. The Dodgers have an estimated $573 million in debt.

The McCourts purchased the Dodgers from News Corp. in 2004 for $435 million. Estimates of the current bids place the eventual sale price of the team and Dodger Stadium between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, excluding the stadium parking lots, which McCourt has said he plans to retain for development.

The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy last June when a cash shortage left the team unable to make payroll.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.