By Ross Newhan
Major League Baseball owners, in a conference call vote Tuesday, approved the three remaining bidders for the Dodgers, turning the process over to club owner Frank McCourt and his broker, Blackstone Advisory Partners, for a closed door auction in New York Wednesday. The price could go to $1.5 billion or higher, which would set a record for a North American sports franchise. The Miami Dolphins were sold for $1.1 billion in 2009, the current record.
The three remaining bidders are a group led by billionaires Steven Cohen and Patrick Soon-Shiong, a group fronted by Magic Johnson and former baseball executive Stan Kasten, and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kronke. Those three, in earlier bidding, were between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion, but it is believed that none of the three have showed their final hand yet, and the final price could depend on whether McCourt retains control of the Dodger Stadium parking lot or includes it in the auction sale.
It is uncertain how long the auction will last. A winner could be determined today or later this week.
The auction is strictly in the hands of McCourt and Blackstone. Major League Baseball can only usurp his choice if he incurs considerable new debt during the auction. McCourt, highly leveraged, bought the Dodgers for $421 million in 2004. He owes creditors more than $700 million, and he must complete the sales negotiations by April 30, when he owes Jamie McCourt a divorce settlement of $131 million.