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Magic Johnson's group reaches agreement to buy Dodgers

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer


From McCourt to Showtime.

Tuesday afternoon, Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the three remaining bidding groups as possible owners of the Dodgers. The next step was an auction to buy the club from embattled owner Frank McCourt, but evidently that didn't take very long. The group led by former Lakers star Magic Johnson has reached an agreement to purchase the club, according to a press release late Tuesday night. The deal is for a record $2 billion. Also, McCourt and "certain affiliates" of Johnson's group will form a joint venture to buy the Chavez Ravine property -- the land surrounding Dodger Stadium -- for an additional $150 million.

The price would break the mark for a North American sports franchise, surpassing the $1.1 billion Stephen Ross paid for the Miami Dolphins in 2009. The highest previous mark for an MLB franchise was the $845 million paid by the Ricketts family to purchase the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

According to Forbes.com, the Dodgers are currently the second-most valuable MLB franchise, after the New York Yankees. Forbes valued the Dodgers at $1.4 billion (see the graphic at the bottom of this post).

"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 the 52-year-old Johnson.

The group is officially named Guggenheim Baseball Management and, aside from Magic, includes Mark R. Walter (the controlling partner; CEO of Guggenheim Partners, a financial services firm), Stan Kasten (former president of the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves), Peter Guber, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly. Kasten is expected to end up being the day to day executive, considering his baseball background.

Dodgers in Transition
“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 now-former owner Frank McCourt in a statement. "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.”

The agreement is still pending approval from federal bankruptcy court, considering the Dodgers filed Chapter 11 last June -- when the team was expected to miss payroll. A transfer of ownership could then take place by the end of April.

McCourt bought the Dodgers for $430 million from NewsCorp in 2004, so he's set to walk away with a hefty profit -- even after paying his divorce settlement, legal fees and his reported $579 million in debt, according to a January tax filing.

Last year, as fans became more and more disgruntled with McCourt, the Dodgers saw attendance fall below three million for the first time since 1992 (in a full season) -- despite having a winning record (82-79).

The other two finalists to purchase the ballclub were Steven Cohen, a hedge-fund manager and limited partner of the Mets and Stan Kroenke, who has a hand in owning the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Rams.


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