Glazer’s Try for Dodgers Plodding

Times Staff Writers

The protracted attempt by Malcolm Glazer to buy the Dodgers remains plagued by the Tampa Bay Buccaneer owner’s inability to satisfy cross-ownership rules in baseball and the National Football League, multiple sources said again Tuesday.

Negotiations are not dead, but the sources could not predict when -- or if -- they will be completed.

A high-ranking baseball official said that “whatever problems have existed for several months now are still there” and added that impatience seems to be setting in among News Corp. executives involved in the negotiations with Glazer.


“The ball is in Glazer’s court,” the baseball official said. “He has to conform to the rules of both leagues, and I sense there’s some frustration that it hasn’t been resolved.”

Tony Vinciquerra, president and chief executive of the News Corp.-owned Fox Television Network, said negotiations are “still progressing” but that the application required by baseball before the sale can be put to a vote of club owners has not been submitted or completed.

Baseball owners next meet Aug. 14 in Boston, but the agenda does not mention the Dodgers, a National League executive said.

“We’d love it to be moving more quickly,” a News Corp. executive said of the negotiations, “but it’s not.”

Glazer has been the Dodger front-runner since bids were submitted in early April, but structural problems involving the cross-ownership rules have been a more difficult hurdle than the agreed-to sale price of about $360 million.

The Times reported in June that baseball and the NFL had kicked back more than one structural proposal. Those proposals wouldn’t have been submitted if there wasn’t already an agreement on the price, the baseball official said Tuesday, “but that’s irrelevant if they can’t agree on everything else.”

There are several hurdles. NFL rules require owners to use independent financing to purchase a team in another sport and independent management in the operation of that team. Glazer plans to have his son Ed, who lives in Los Angeles, operate the Dodgers. Some baseball officials have expressed concerns about Ed Glazer’s “management credentials,” as one official put it, and it is not clear whether his involvement would represent independent management to the NFL.

The larger problem, however, involves financing.

NFL rules prohibit Glazer from using the Buccaneers as collateral, and under a baseball edict being vigilantly enforced by Commissioner Bud Selig, a club cannot have debt larger than 40% of assets. At a sale price of $360 million, Glazer could finance up to $144 million under the 40% rule, but he could not use the Buccaneers as collateral, under NFL rules, and he would have to come up with $216 million out of pocket. He could sell his Super Bowl champion, but sources doubt he would consider giving up a cash cow to purchase a team that says it has lost $100 million the last two years.

A person with ties to Glazer’s business operations acknowledged Tuesday that there has been no resolution or real change in the Dodger negotiations for several weeks.

Glazer, who has declined to comment publicly since the talks began, joined the Buccaneers when they left Tuesday for Tokyo and a Saturday exhibition game against the New York Jets.

Given the ongoing hurdles and the length of the negotiations, some baseball owners believe the potential deal is closer to being comatose than completed, and they are mystified by News Corp.’s apparent refusal to let it die.

Dodger owner and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has considerable leverage with baseball, given Fox’s $2.5-billion national TV contract and his many regional deals with individual clubs. He may think that he can obtain approval of a Glazer deal even if all the hurdles aren’t surmounted.

“There is no question but that he has a lot of say about our financial fate,” a top baseball official said, “but he has been such a good partner that I don’t think he would do anything to embarrass us. Besides, he has similar contracts with the NFL, and the cross-ownership problem may be more of an NFL issue than it is a baseball issue.”

There is the possibility, of course, that in continuing the talks with Glazer, News Corp. may be suggesting that it has doubts about reaching a deal with the two other known bidders -- former Seattle Mariner owner Jeff Smulyan, whose Emmis Corp. is interested only if Murdoch changes his mind and agrees to sell some of his TV holdings, and Los Angeles developer Alan Casden, whose bid is believed to be more than $40 million higher than Glazer’s.

Casden said he was willing to be patient.

“We are waiting to see if [Glazer] is the buyer or if Fox is going to go to other bidders. We’ve made an offer and we haven’t retracted it.... We remain fans, and we’d love to be involved with the team.”


Times staff writers Jason Reid and Roger Vincent contributed to this report.