Dodgers said to be in talks to sell minority share to South Korean group
The Dodgers are in negotiations to sell a minority ownership share to a group of South Korean investors, a person with direct knowledge of the discussions said Thursday.
There is “zero” chance the Dodgers’ owners would surrender control of the team in the deal, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks have not been confirmed publicly. The person said the talks were “progressing” but otherwise declined to characterize how advanced the negotiations might be or handicap the chances of reaching a deal.
None of the Dodgers’ five individual investors — controlling owner Mark Walter and partners Todd Boehly, Bobby Patton, Peter Guber and Magic Johnson — would sell his share as part of the deal, two people familiar with the matter said.
Guggenheim Baseball Management bought the Dodgers for $2.15 billion in 2012. It is possible the funds from the sale of a minority stake could help repay the $1.2-billion portion taken from Guggenheim Partners insurance funds controlled by Walter, or could provide additional capital for club operations.
The Dodgers’ player payroll next season is an estimated $263 million, according to Yahoo Sports — more than $50 million higher than the team with the second-highest payroll, the New York Yankees.
The Korea Joongang Daily, one of two South Korean newspapers that first reported the talks, said the investment group hoped to buy 20% of the Dodgers for about $370 million, which would value the Dodgers at $1.85 billion. Boehly told the Los Angeles Times in December 2012 that Guggenheim Baseball valued the Dodgers at $3 billion.
Boehly also told The Times then that Guggenheim Baseball had discussed ownership investments by what he called a “strategic partner” from Mexico and/or South Korea. Those talks did not result in any deals.
The Dodgers are “probably the most popular MLB club among Koreans,” the Joongang Daily said, largely because of the two star South Korean pitchers to play for them, Chan Ho Park and Hyun-jin Ryu.
Any party joining the Dodgers’ ownership group would have to be approved by Major League Baseball. The league does not prohibit foreign investors. A league spokesman declined to comment Thursday, referring questions to the Dodgers.
Walter did not respond to a message. Dodgers President Stan Kasten declined to confirm whether the team was in talks about the sale of a minority stake and declined to discuss why such a move would be considered.
“People talk to us all the time about all sorts of things,” Kasten said. “We never publicly discuss any of it.”
A high-ranking major league official said he was unaware of the talks but said he would be surprised if a group would consider making such a large investment without any path toward control of the team.
“I think that would be unlikely at those numbers,” the official said. “It’s such a big bet. You’re basing everything on the management capabilities of people you don’t know at all.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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