MLB approves all three final bidders

SportsAuction ServiceLos Angeles DodgersBaseballMajor League BaseballBankruptcyStan Kroenke

Major league owners approved the three remaining Dodgers bidders Tuesday, enabling Frank McCourt to start an auction for the team on Wednesday.

By the time the auction is over -- late Wednesday, perhaps, or later this week -- the Dodgers are expected to be sold for a record price for a North American sports franchise.

The three finalists:

--The partnership of Connecticut hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen and Los Angeles biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, with a combined net worth estimated at $15.5 billion by Forbes.

--Stan Kroenke, owner of the St. Louis Rams and five other sports teams, with a net worth estimated at $3.2 billion by Forbes.

--A group fronted by Magic Johnson and veteran baseball executive Stan Kasten and funded largely by Guggenheim Partners, a Chicago-based financial services firm that says it controls $125 billion in assets.

McCourt took the Dodgers into bankruptcy last year, in a bid to retain ownership of the team. He ultimately agreed to sell the Dodgers, but through a court-supervised process that enabled him to hold an auction and select the winner.

MLB owners reviewed the applications from eight bidders, with five eliminated by MLB or by the court-appointed mediator. The owners convened via conference call Tuesday.

McCourt and his advisors will stage an auction in New York, starting Wednesday.

Under McCourt's agreement with MLB, the league must accept the winner of the auction as the Dodgers' new owner. But if the auction drives the sale price so high that the winning bidder must add significant debt to finance the purchase, MLB retains the right to review the financial structure.

Once McCourt picks a winner, he must get U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval for the sale agreement on April 13, then close the transaction by April 30, the day he must pay his ex-wife $131 million in a divorce settlement.

The Dodgers are expected to sell for about $1.5 billion. The Miami Dolphins were sold for $1.1 billion in 2009, the current record for a North American sports franchise.

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