Thursday, February 23, 2012

Deadline Passes for Second Bids in Dodger Sweepstakes

      By Ross Newhan

      The deadline for second bids in the convuluted bankruptcy auction of the Dodgers was Thursday.

      Of course, if somebody wants to come in at $2 billion dollars today they will be welcomed.

      According to multiple sources, some of them part of the respective investment groups and not authorized to speak on the subject because of the confidentiality agreement with Blackstone Advisory Partners or other factors, all of those remaining in the process planned to submit second bids that covered the entire Dodger package--team, stadium and parking lot.

     Because most, if not all, of those remaining groups believe considerable and costly renovations are necessary to bring Dodger Stadium up to reasonably modern standards, the overall bid prices may be lower than originally anticipated and may even fall short of the $1.5 billion plateau, once thought certain to be surpassed in a lively battle for a flagship franchise with attractive television potential.

     In this process, one day you are in and one day you are out.

     Groups led by Dennis Gilbert, Fred Claire and Steve Garvey/Orel Hershiser did not survive the first round, and former owner Peter O'Malley reportedly withdrew this week, although he was still adhering to the confidentiality agreement when I talked with him Wednesday.

     O'Malley, highly critical of Dodger owner Frank McCourt in the past, came to the conclusion that he was not going to be selected by McCourt even if he had the highest bid, which was probably unlikely. His financial underwriters, South Korean conglomerate, E-Land, was also drawing criticism in South Korea for not putting its money into homeland baseball. The withdrawal of O'Malley was reported first by my former L.A. Times colleague Bill Shaikin.

    Why did O'Malley get involved if he knew from the start his approval by McCourt was a longshot? According to several people familiar with the situation but unwilling to talk on the record because of their friendship with O'Malley, he did it in the hope that community pressure might influence McCourt and he did it for his sons and nephews in the large O'Malley/Seidler family. Several other Los Angeles based groups, including Magic Johnson in one and Joe Torre in another, tended to divide the community aspect, and the name of the game simply became too expensive for O'Malley to justify family hopes.

   However, whoever emerges as the next owner would be smart to hire O'Malley to help accelerate the transition and organization of a new front office.

   The next step, and one that has already going on behind the scenes, is for major league baseball to begin a background investigation of the remaining groups. In addition the principal financial partners in each group will be asked to meet with baseball's ownership and executive committees during March. Some of those meetings will take place in Arizona during spring training and some in New York. Baseball hopes to narrow the list to five groups for McCourt's selection by April 1, a rapid turnover by baseball's normal standards.

    Selecting a winner remains virtually impossible, but two groups seem to stand out.

    One is the Magic group that includes former baseball executive Stan Kasten and primary financial backer Mark Walter, CEO of Guggenheim Partners, a private global financial service.

    The other is a group headed by Steve Cohen of SAC Capital, a hedge fund conglomerate based in New York and Stamford, Conn., and which includes former deputy commisssioner Steve Greenberg and attorney/player agent Arn Tellem. Cohen, whose wealth has been estimated at $8.3 billion by Forbes,  has been assisting with a federal investigation of his company. Two employees have been charged with insider trading, but no charges have been brought against Cohen, although he has received a federal "target letter."

   How those factors may impact baseball's considerations is uncertain.


    An Angel Error    

    It was the responsibility of Angel management to check with Albert Pujols regarding his feelings about having his image and "El Hombre" plastered on billboards throughout the megalopolis.

    First of all, Pujols may not have wanted to be isolated from his new teammates by being known as "the man."

   The other factor is that Pujols has always maintained that in St. Louis there was only one man, and that was Stan Musial. Now that he is with another team in another city does not alter his feelings, nor the responsibility of the Angels to discuss it with him.

   In addition, Angel owner Arte Moreno has always played down the Mexican aspect of his heritage to say he is a fourth generation American, period.

   The Angels should have kept that in mind when they billed Pujols as "El Hombre".



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