April 21, 2014

IT’S OVER!

Finally.  After all the pain, suffering and frustration caused by the McCourt Ownership Era, Dodger fans are finally free.

When the official statement came over at 10:48 a.m., it was simple and to the point:

The Los Angeles Dodgers, Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC (“GBM”) and Frank McCourt today announced the completion of the sale of the Dodgers to GBM for $2 billion. As previously reported, the Dodgers’ new ownership includes Mark Walter as control person, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Stan Kasten as CEO of the organization.

The Los Angeles Dodgers stated, “The Dodgers emerge from the Chapter 11 reorganization process having achieved its objective of maximizing the value of the Dodgers through a successful Plan of Reorganization, under which all claims will be paid. The Dodgers move forward with confidence – in a strong financial position; as a premier Major League Baseball franchise; and as an integral part of and representative of the Los Angeles community.”

Later, Frank released a letter directed to team employees (from the LA Times):

“To my colleagues at the Los Angeles Dodgers,

“I am pleased to inform you that the Los Angeles Dodgers have emerged successfully from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The sale to Guggenheim Baseball Partners has been completed, and the Dodgers move forward as a well capitalized organization, strong both on and off the field.

“This is how it should be for the Dodgers – one of the truly storied and best known franchises in not just baseball, but all of sports.

“I am grateful to have been part of the Dodger organization and to have had the pleasure of working with you. Despite the difficult environment of the last few years, we together can be proud of what we have achieved. We enjoyed tremendous success on the field.  In 2004, we won our first playoff game since 1988. We went to the playoffs four times over the next six years, including back-to-back National League Championship Series – a first for the Los Angeles Dodgers in over 30 years.  And we are off to one of the best starts in baseball in 2012.

“Off the field, we returned the organization to profitability. We grew the value of the franchise well beyond what anyone thought was possible. We made it a Dodger ongoing practice to give back to the Los Angeles community. Your hard work has been essential to all of this.

“I am confident that the new ownership, which will be introduced to you this morning at 10:30 a.m. in the Stadium Club, will carry forward the Dodger tradition, the Dodger commitment to community and the effort to make the team once again World Champions of baseball. I thank you all for working with me and for your dedication to and support of the Dodgers.

“With respect and affection, Frank”

Sure, there are opportunities to poke holes at Frank’s view of things – “we returned the team to profitability” and “we went to the playoffs four times in six years” (he actually owned the team for eight) – but I say it’s time to move on and put McCourt far in the rear view mirror.

It’s time for a new beginning, Dodger fans.  Time to put the past behind us and welcome in a new ownership group with open arms.  It’s time for Dodger baseball and I personally can’t wait for the celebration at 10 a.m. tomorrow when Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson hold that news conference to introduce the next era of Los Angeles Dodgers history.  You deserve it, Dodger fans.  Enjoy!

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Carlos Delgado

Showtime is Coming to Chavez Ravine!

Somebody pinch me…quick. Did that really happen?  Is the Wicked Witch of Los Angeles really dead?  Twitter nearly exploded with euphoria from Dodger fans at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday night when it was revealed that Magic Johnson’s group (comprised of Magic, baseball executive Stan Kasten, money man Mark Walter of financial services firm Guggenheim Partners and Hollywood executive Peter Gruber) was selected by Frank McCourt as the new owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion – a staggering fee.

And what about those parking lots that Dodger fans have been worrying about?  Turns out the land around the stadium was also part of the deal, with Frank McCourt coming along as a (wait for it) silent partner.

Magic released a statement through the Dodgers Tuesday night: “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.”

Ok, now what? I find it hard to believe this group bid such an astronomical sum (the most any North American sports franchise has ever sold for) and doesn’t plan on building a dynasty that will compete right out of the gate and for years to come.  We all know Magic’s a winner, and the fans in LA will expect nothing else now.

Think about it: the new Dodger owners have exceptionally deep pockets through the Guggenheim Group, a seasoned baseball man (Kasten was the longtime president of the Atlanta Braves and also the Washington Nationals) and an LA sports legend in Magic Johnson who also is a phenomenally successful businessman.  Does it get better than that?  Kasten and Magic should have the resources to put together a monster team around Kershaw, Kemp and Mattingly.

And in the battle of LA, Magic Johnson trumps Albert Pujols.  It’s time for Dodger baseball!

Photo Credit: sojones.com

Decision on Ownership of the Dodgers Expected This Week

To describe the slow, grinding road toward the eventual sale of the Dodgers as tortuous would be too kind, but my friends, the end is in sight.  The final three bidders have been identified, and per Bill Shaikin, a modified auction will take place with Frank McCourt selecting the eventual winner.  The two parties then have until April 3o to close on the transaction.

While there are lots of details still to be worked out, Shaikin’s article answers some of the most burning questions Dodger fans have.  The most interesting, of course, is what happens to the Dodger Stadium parking lots.  If Dodger fans have their way, they will be part of the sale, leaving McCourt with no stake in Chavez Ravine.  Per Bill Shaikin:

McCourt and his advisers have projected a sale price of at least $1.5 billion. Is that going to happen?
That might depend on whether McCourt includes the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale. The bidders would like him to sell the lots. He is not required to do so, and he has said he intends to keep them.

If he does, the offers for the Dodgers could drop to the point in which McCourt might not make much more than $1.1 billion, the approximate amount he needs to pay off debts and taxes, according to multiple people familiar with the sale process. McCourt could bet on revenue from future development.

The parking lot options might not be limited to “sell” or “keep.” A bidder could get an option to buy them a later date, for example, or offer McCourt a share of any development revenue.

So what does that really mean?  Well, if the parking lots are not included and the offers come in “low” (around the $1.1 billion mark), McCourt may change his mind and include them in the deal, driving up the value of the offers and leaving him with a profit after taking care of the debt, taxes and his divorce settlement.  And if I was a betting man, I would say that favors the really rich ownership bid of billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen and local LA billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

But if there’s one thing Dodger fans have learned over the past few years, Frank McCourt rarely does what’s expected, so buckle up and get ready for some fireworks.

 

It Truly is a November to Remember for Dodger Fans

Who would have thought when November first began that Dodger fans would have so much to be thankful for?  It all began on November 2nd, when Frank McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers.  On Nove,ber 17, Clayton Kershaw won the National League Cy Young Award.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Matt Kemp signed an eight year, $160 milion deal on November 18. Really, can it get much better than that that?  Absolutely.  Tomorrow the National league MVP Award will be given out, and if Dodger fans had their way, it would go to Matt Kemp.

That would be 20 days of baseball euphoria in Los Angeles.  I honestly am having a hard time finding something to compare it to.  Here we have a down-on-it’s-luck franchise, getting the ultimate gift when a despised owner agrees to sell the city’s beloved franchise, followed quickly by it’s young phenom pitcher receiving the highest award possible, followed by their charismatic and unbelievably talented young outfielder signing a lucrative extension and proclaiming his desire to be a Dodger for life.  It kind of makes you think Matt Kemp is due the MVP doesn’t it?

I so want Matt Kemp to be the MVP.  I want it for him because he had one of best all-around seasons for any baseball player in decades.  I want it for him because he played hard everyday on an average team.  I want it for him because he played the game the way it’s meant to be played: with hard work, class and a fantastic attitude.  But mostly, I want it for Dodger fans…for their support, passion and believe in this club.

But whether or not Matt wins the MVP, I’m thankful.  Thankful that the Dodger organization has turned a corner and that hope is once again on the horizon.  A new owner will soon be in place and we’ll have the opportunity to see Kershaw, Kemp and the others for years to come.

As a baseball fan, you really can’t ask for much more than that.

KeMVP, baby.

Photo credit: Jon SooHoo / 2011 LA Dodgers

Dreams Do Come True: McCourt Agrees to Sell Dodgers

I had a little extra kick in my step when I bounded out of the house this morning. Was it Christmas? Nope. My birthday? Nah. In many ways, it was both of those things combined. It was suddenly remembering the news from the night before: Major League Baseball and Frank McCourt had agreed to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers and its assets at auction.  Even better, MLB hoped to have a new owner in place by the beginning of the 2012 season.

As a blogger, I’m ecstatic.  I didn’t start this blog four years ago to write about the Dodger owners, but rather, the game, the players, the deals and the rumors. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to find myself sitting in LA Superior Court watching the McCourt divorce trial. But you know what? I learned a lot, and I discovered some great writers along the way (Josh Fisher and Molly Knight, to name two).

Given the pace of the legal proceedings over the past two years (to say nothing of Frank’s ongoing insistance that he would never, ever sell), I certainly wasn’t expecting such a decisive decision quite so quickly. But there it was: the Dodgers would have a new owner – and soon.

I won’t waste such a joyous moment as this to recount the McCourt Era in Los Angeles. Instead, this is a time to do what baseball fans do best: spend the off-season speculating about how best to improve their favorite team. Dodger fans will do one better: weighing the pros and cons of who the best owner will be, whether it’s Marc Cuban, Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser, Dennis Gilbert or even Peter O’Malley.  The options are plentiful (hey, what about Vin Scully? I kid, I kid…), but you know Bud Selig is going to do right by Dodger fans this time around.

Rejoice Dodger fans – you’ve earned it.

Here are a few links to some of our favorite coverage over the past 24 hours:

- The great Bill Shaikin at the LA Times breaks the news Peter O’Malley is throwing his hat in to the bidders’ ring

- Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness looks at Ownerpalooza in LA

- Ramona Shelbourne at ESPNLA breaks down the odds of the current contenders

- The New York Times discusses the revived hopes and dreams of Dodger fans