Joe Torre & Rick Caruso withdraw bid due to Frank McCourt & parking lots, reason to panic?

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that the joint bid of Joe Torre and Rick Caruso has withdrawn from the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership sweepstakes.

Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre have withdrawn a joint bid to buy the Dodgers.

Which is fine, as I didn’t want Torre involved as owner to begin with, but the reason for the withdrawal was the potentially disturbing part.

Caruso and Torre cited owner Frank McCourt’s refusal to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale, according to a letter, dated last Friday, that the men sent to Major League Baseball. The Times obtained a copy of the letter Thursday.

Caruso and Torre would reenter the bidding if McCourt would agree to sell the parking lots, people familiar with the sale process but not authorized to publicly speak about it said. McCourt has told people he has at least one bid in which the buyer would let him retain ownership of the parking lots.

Caruso and other bidders thought the purchase of the lots would be negotiable. However, in a recent meeting with Caruso, McCourt said he intends to keep the lots and develop them, according to the people familiar with the sale process.

McCourt and his advisors think the Dodgers can sell for at least $1.5 billion, even without the land. But at least one bid group discounted its offer by more than $300 million to account for the exclusion of the land, according to a person familiar with the process.

Sucks, right? Frank McCourt will still be hovering over the Dodgers even when he’s not the owner.

My initial reaction was probably the same as yours: “Oh what the fuck?”

However, it might not be all that bad. Mike Petriello explains that the source of the news is questionable to begin with:

But I’ll offer this: we just witnessed the winter of the “mystery team”. Who saw Prince Fielder going to the Tigers? Albert Pujols to the Angels? Yoenis Cespedes to the Athletics? You’ll notice that in the Shaikin story, the line that indicates McCourt has an offer that would allow him to keep the lots starts with the line, “McCourt has told people…” Well, I trust Bill Shaikin unconditionally, but that sentence might as well end with “…that Justin Bieber will be playing left field” or “…that he’s building parking lots on the moon.” Until we hear from a far more reputable source than Frank McCourt, we have no idea if there really is a bidder who is willing to let Frank stay involved. And if there’s not, then McCourt’s going to have no choice but to sell the team and the lots, if that’s the best he can do in the next few weeks.

To be clear, neither of us are questioning Shaikin, just the fact that it’s McCourt running his mouth about what he does and does not have in terms of bids at the moment. Take it with an ocean of salt.

Moreover, Rob McMillin explains that the lowered financial terms might force McCourt to sell the parking lots anyway:

This is a suspicion — and only that — but the $1.5 billion-plus bids the team is fielding now are at least in part contingent on the team being sold along with the parking lots. And if Frank is not selling the parking lots — as he has repeatedly said he won’t — along with the team, then the price will come down accordingly. As it has been my considered opinion that overpaying for the Dodgers will lead to bad teams (to make up for the overpayment), this cannot help but be a good thing in the short and long terms. My hope, anyway, is that McCourt intransigence will eventually mean he cannot recoup enough to make good with his wife. That will force him to sell the parking lots.

Rob was the first person I read to have a detailed account of why McCourt would be a terrible owner (back in like 2004), and I think the thought process here is logical enough. After all, I question how much bidders will be willing to pay if their ownership starts with the ghost of McCourt looming over it and with fans skeptical.

Either way, it’s not reason to panic … yet.

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