Dodgers sale closes; McCourt era ends
Frank McCourt surrendered ownership of the Dodgerson Tuesday, closing a turbulent chapter in the history of one of baseball’s most historic franchises.
The new owners wired the final payment on the record $2.15-billion purchase price on Tuesday, closing the transaction that ended the McCourt era and ushering in Guggenheim Baseball as the Dodgers’ third owner since the O’Malley family sold the team in 1998, individuals close to the negotiations confirmed.
The new ownership group, fronted by Magic Johnson and incoming Dodgers President Stan Kasten, is expected to hold its first news conference on Wednesday. Dodgers controlling owner Mark Walter, who arranged the financing as chief executive of Chicago-based Guggenheim Financial, is expected to make a rare public appearance at the news conference.
The new ownership will be charged with returning the Dodgers to the World Series for the first time since 1988. Every other team in the National League West has played in the World Series since then.
No major changes to the team are expected immediately. The Dodgers’ executive departures Tuesday included McCourt and two of his closest lieutenants, vice chairman Jeff Ingram and senior vice president Howard Sunkin.
Kasten, the former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, is expected to evaluate the Dodgers’ front-office personnel before considering additional changes. General Manager Ned Colletti remains in place.
Colletti and McCourt signed the Dodgers’ best position player, outfielder Matt Kemp, to an eight-year, $160-million contract extension last winter. Colletti also has said he would like to sign outfielder Andre Ethier to an extension.
Colletti met with Ethier’s agent at Dodger Stadium on Friday, but it is unclear if a deal might be in the works. Ethier, who is second behind Kemp for the league lead in runs batted in, can file for free agency after the season.
McCourt’s eight-year run included the highs of the Dodgers’ first consecutive National League championship appearances in 31 years and the lows of a failed strategy to retain ownership by taking the storied team into bankruptcy.
In the end, McCourt won, at least financially. No baseball team had sold for even $1 billion, yet McCourt is expected to clear close to that amount in net profit. That would leave him with about seven times as much money as his ex-wife Jamie got under the divorce settlement to which the couple agreed last fall, before he announced he would sell the Dodgers.
Jamie McCourt was wired her $131 million divorce payment on Monday, from the Dodgers’ sale proceeds.
McCourt retains half-ownership of the Dodger Stadium parking lots, although no development can take place on the site unless he and the new owners agree, according to people familiar with the sale agreement.
The Dodgers’ new owners will collect parking fees, but they have not said how that revenue might be split with McCourt, or what development they might have envisioned for the parking lots.
The Dodgers’ bankruptcy filing came on the heels of a bruising two-year divorce battle that revealed how the McCourts used team revenue to further a lifestyle that included side-by-side estates in Holmby Hills and Malibu, private jet travel around the world, even house calls from hairdressers and makeup artists.
Commissioner Bud Selig seized control of the Dodgers’ financial operations last April. Major League Baseball later accused McCourt of “looting” $189 million from team funds.
The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy in June, evicting the trustee appointed by Selig and charging the commissioner with forcing their hand by rejecting a proposed television contract that would have put the team on sound financial footing.
The Dodgers’ new owners can open negotiations on a television deal this fall. They can launch a team-owned regional sports network, or they can leverage the threat to do so in what is expected to be a bidding war among Fox Sports, Time Warner Cable and perhaps CBS. The Dodgers’ new television contract is expected to be worth $4 billion, or more.
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