Friday, March 23, 2012

Two Groups Elimated as Tensions Mount in Dodger Bidding

      By Ross Newhan

      In the convoluted and now increasingly contentious bankruptcy auction of the Dodgers, three groups remain in the bidding.

     With tensions between Major League Baseball and Frank McCourt's broker, Blackstone Advisory Partners, at a point where court appointed mediator Joseph Farnan seized control of the process as MLB filed technical legal drafts against Blackstone and the club's reorganization plan, two of the groups were eliminated according to a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to talk about it.

     The two groups eliminated were the partnership of Michael Heisley, owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, and Tony Ressler, co-founder of Los Angeles based Ares Management, and Stalney Gold, CEO of Shamrock Holdings, the investment arm of the late Roy E. Disney's family.

     The three still in the bidding are a group headed by hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong; a group fronted by Magic Johnson and former baseball executive Stan Kasten, and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kronke.

     As reported by this blog yesterday, some major league owners remain concerned about the financial structure of the Johnson-Kasten group, the person familiar with the situation confirmed, but whether the concern is serious enough and widespread enough to sidetrack the group's bid is uncertain.

    At this point, the financial strength of the Cohen/Soon-Shiong group (the combined net worth of the two principals, according to Forbes, is $15.5 billion), would seem to make them the favorite, but little in this process is a certainty.

    The 30 major league owners may meet by conference call as early as Tuesday to vote on the three finalists. One, two or all three could be approved to begin final bidding and negotiations with McCourt and Blackstone. Forbes estimated the value of the Dodgers at $1.4 billion last week, and the final price could eclipse that, even if McCourt remains firm on retaining ownership of the parking lot, a separate entity from the team and stadium.        

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