Los Angeles Dodgers Ownership Bidding War: The Figureheads & Their Financial Backers

With the Los Angeles Dodgers in the news for the impending bidding war over the ownership of the team, I thought this would be as appropriate a time as ever to run through the publicly declared bidders, as the deadline for submission has come and gone.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times breaks down the specifics of the bidding process in nice and tidy parts.

If McCourt has the final say on the new owner, what role does Major League Baseball play in the process?

MLB has agreed to approve up to 10 bidders. Yet Blackstone is unlikely to clear even that many bidders for MLB consideration, given the time needed for the league to investigate the structure and financing of each potential ownership group. To cover the costs of the investigation, MLB will charge $25,000 to each bidder cleared by Blackstone.

If MLB rejects a prospective bidder cleared by Blackstone, does McCourt have any recourse?

Yes. He can appeal to the mediator who brokered his settlement with MLB.

Do the other MLB owners have a say?

Yes. They can approve or reject any bidder that passes the MLB investigation. However, once the league informs Blackstone of which prospective buyers have been approved by MLB owners, McCourt conducts the final round of bidding and determines the winner. If the winning bidder’s final offer is dramatically higher than the initial offer, MLB reserves the right to review the financing.

When will this happen?

There is no set date, but the calendar suggests the end of March. McCourt has agreed to select the winning bidder by April 1 and disclose the winner to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court by April 6.

Outstanding stuff, as always.

Regarding the bidders themselves though, who are the groups and what good or bad traits do they bring to the table?

Let’s find out.

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Mark Cuban

The Good: A charismatic fan favorite of an owner, basically the exact opposite of Frank McCourt. His tenure as the Dallas Mavericks owner has obviously been a successful one, as he turned a joke of a franchise into a perennial contender. While his money has often been cited as the reason for the change, he has proven that he will explore any avenue that could potentially give his franchise an advantage. As such, he is unlikely to be as sabermetrics averse as the current Dodgers front office, as evidenced by his implementation of analytics in basketball to score his first NBA Championship.

The Bad: I’m not convinced he’s that legit of a threat to win. He’s not an idiot and he’s unlikely to go over whatever he has the Dodgers valued at, as he showed in the bidding for the Texas Rangers. While I’m confident he would find quality baseball men to run the franchise, he’s not going into the process with anybody in place.

My Take: I would love for him to be owner, as his history suggests he would make winning a priority and would explore the most efficient ways to do so. Unfortunately, I think it’s a long shot.

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Magic Johnson/Stan Kasten/Mark Walters

The Good: Magic Johnson instantly becomes the face of the ownership and it should go over extremely well with fans. Stan Kasten employs his experience with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals to run the baseball operations. Mark Walters could use his eleventy trillion dollars to supplement the payroll and buy elite players. Seriously, Guggenheim Partners has over $100 billion in assets and he’s the CEO.

The Bad: Uh…none?

My Take: My current preference to win the bidding. I can’t see a better combination.

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Steven Cohen/Steve Greenberg/Arn Tellem

The Good: Founder of SAC Capital Advisors and a hedge fund manager, Steven Cohen is worth over $8 billion. The group’s baseball experience will come from Steve Greenberg, who served as a deputy commissioner of baseball, and Arn Tellem, who is a player agent for the Wasserman Media Group. Get to use puns on Arn Tellem’s name.

The Bad: In today’s political environment, it’s not exactly ideal in the public relations department to have a hedge fund manager as an owner, and especially not one whose company is under investigation by the SEC. Went through an ugly divorce that led to lawsuits. Sound familiar?

My Take: Do. Not. Want. I don’t want to deal with yet another owner with baggage. Haven’t Bud Selig and the other owners learned their lesson yet? Yes, other ownership groups could have drama, but this one has already been confirmed to have been involved in messes before, so why bother? My fear is that the Blackstone Group, which is in control of the sale, is a significant investor in SAC Capital Advisors, and that could give the latter a gigantic advantage.

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Rick Caruso/Joe Torre/Byron Trott

The Good: Joe Torre becomes the face of the franchise and has a ton of baseball experience. Despite his tenure with the Dodgers, I get the feeling that fans love him, and given that he just left a position with the MLB, he and Bud Selig should have a solid working relationship. Byron Trott, named by Warren Buffett as the only banker he trusts, heads BDT Capital Partners and was previously the vice chairman for Goldman Sachs. I would have the same concerns with him as I do with Steven Cohen, but he has no legal issues with his comapny and Buffett’s word carries weight. Rick Caruso is a local developer who is worth around $1.7 billion and has tons of local popularity.

The Bad: Honestly? Torre as the baseball man frightens me. A lot. He’s not progressive with his thinking at all and he never seemed to have a problem with Ned Colletti, leading me to believe he just might keep him around. Disastrous.

My Take: I don’t necessarily have a problem with the group, but the risk that Torre could regress the Dodgers to decades old thinking and retain Colletti is too much for me to bear. Out.

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Dennis Gilbert/Larry King/Jason Reese/Randy Wooster

The Good: Both Larry King and Dennis Gilbert are Dodgers fans, which is always a plus. King’s name carries weight, though I’m not sure he has any name value as a sports personality. Gilbert has extensive baseball experience as a former player agent, former player, and current special assistant to Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns the Chicago White Sox. Jason Reese and Randy Wooster are Chairman/CEO and President of Imperial Capital, a Los Angeles area investment bank, and the two will be providing the financial thump in the group.

The Bad: Not much public motivation, honestly. No idea if they actually have the money to compete.

My Take: If they have the money to spend competitively, then I have no issue with the group, but as of now, that’s a big unknown. There are rumors that they might have to hook up with Fox or Time Warner to get the finances to work. Ugh.

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Leo Hindery/Marc Utay

The Good: Leo Hindery is a Managing Partner at private equity fund InterMedia Partners, and he founded the YES Network for the New York Yankees and served as Chairman & CEO until 2004. Marc Utay is a Managing Partner at private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners. The pair of them tried to buy the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, so there’s a history there.

The Bad: They’ve been under the radar, and as a result not much has been revealed as to their finances or plans, so the biggest downside right now is the uncertainty.

My Take: Hard to judge what you know little about, so I can’t provide much positive or negative feedback until more is revealed.

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Steve Garvey/Orel Hershiser

The Good: Their resume in baseball speaks for itself, though little is known about their actual qualifications as executives. They certainly figure to have local support and can become the faces of the franchise.

The Bad: They don’t seem to have funding. Last time they spoke on the Dodgers, they were still looking for investors and it’s unknown who they found.

My Take: Not enough information to endorse two former players with unknown finances and unknown executive experience.

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Josh Macciello

The Good: He’s not a hedge fund manager or a banker or an executive, he’s a regular guy like you or me. He’s the CEO of ArmItal Sports and plans to use the gold mines he owns, which are valued in the tens of billions, as collateral for the purchase, so he says he has the financial backing.

The Bad: He’s a regular guy like you or me. The lack of baseball connections, the lack of executive experience, the lack of community support, and the legitimate questions about whether he would even be taken seriously by the commissioner and fellow owners. All of those are negatives.

My Take: I understand why fans might want to side with him, but I just can’t. It has little to do with his looks or his spelling or whatever else. It has more to do with the lack of experience in everything that I think an owner should be about.

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Stan Kroenke

The Good: Stan Kroenke is the largest shareholder in Arsenal F.C., owns the St. Louis Rams, Colorado Mammoth, and Colorado Rapids, and he formerly owned the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Colorado Crush, all of which he transferred to his son to comply with NFL ownership rules. Needless to say, he has experience with this sort of thing and his teams have generally performed well under his tenure in charge.

The Bad: Perhaps his money will be spread a bit thin and I’m wondering if this has more to do with trying to move the Rams to Los Angeles than actually caring about the Dodgers. No idea about the baseball side of things.

My Take: I’m okay with this in theory, but I’m going to hold off on endorsing the move until more is revealed. We know a lot about him as an owner, but not a lot about his interest in the Dodgers.

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Potential Mergers And/Or Group Joiners

Peter O’Malley: Submitted an ownership bid himself, but has been rumored to be in discussions to link up with the bid of Stanley Gold & Roy Disney’s Family and/or Tony Ressler. A throwback to the good old days of Dodgers family ownership, but it’s probably not gonna help that he was talking about how terrible McCourt was as an owner considering McCourt will hold the ultimate decision.

Stanley Gold/Roy Disney’s Family: Submitted an ownership bid as their own group, but have been rumored to be linking up with Peter O’Malley and/or Tony Ressler. Gold is the President & CEO of Shamrock Holdings and has local popularity, but his financial clout is not known. Not much is known about what Roy Disney’s Family brings to the table either, I assume it’s money but nobody knows. Group is short on baseball experience.

Tony Ressler: Rumored to be linking up with either Stanley Gold & Roy Disney’s Family or Peter O’Malley or either or both. Co-founder of local investment firm Ares Capital, which has in excess of $40 billion in assets.

Tom Barrack: Chairman & CEO of investment firm Colony Capital has a net worth over $1 billion. Has been rumored to join several groups, but no specifics have popped up yet.

Fox: Seriously? No. Please no.

Time Warner Cable: They haven’t actually done anything wrong, but why get involved in this type of ownership situation again? Fool me once…

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Rumored Bidders

Alan Casden: A real estate developer worth over $1 billion, he might have more interest in the property the Dodgers own more than the team itself, which is disconcerting. Remember, this is the guy who tried to buy the team last time around and had plans to move Dodger Stadium to a different location. MLB didn’t want him last time because of an investigation into illegal campaign contributions to local politicians. Why deal with the headache?

Ron Burkle: Worth over $3 billion dollars, he is the current co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While no baseball people are rumored to be on board yet, he seems to carry a lot of weight locally. Divorce was…uh…messy.

Fred Claire/Andy Dolich/Ben Hwang: Fred Claire has experience as an executive with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Andy Dolich has experience as an executive with the Oakland Athletics. Ben Hwang, former executive at Life Technologies, will provide the finances for the group. The question mark revolves around money and whether they have enough of it.

Tom Golisano: Founder of Paychex is worth $1.4 billion and is the former owner of the Buffalo Sabres. Was preparing a bid, but it’s unknown whether he followed through or not. Worth noting is that Sabres fans criticized his lack of spending, and he’s on record as saying that the biggest payroll doesn’t lead to championships, which is correct in theory, but seems like code for not wanting to spend much.

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