Patrick Soon Shiong Joins Steven Cohen, Tony La Russa Is Scary, A Favorite Emerges

The richest man in Los Angeles, Patrick Soon Shiong, has joined up with Steven Cohen‘s Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, the richest man in Los Angeles, has joined the Dodgers bid group led by hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen.

The alliance is the strongest indication yet of Cohen’s intention to present outgoing owner Frank McCourt with a final bid that reflects prominent local support rather than just overwhelming East Coast money.

If McCourt were to accept the Cohen bid, he would be rejecting one led by local icon Magic Johnson. Soon-Shiong has held several meetings with McCourt since the Dodgers were put up for sale in November, according to people familiar with the process.

Soon-Shiong had been widely expected to join the bid group led by Johnson, from whom he bought a minority share in the Lakers two years ago. Soon-Shiong’s decision to join Cohen was confirmed Sunday by two people familiar with the sale process but not authorized to comment.

That’s a gigantic win for Cohen, not only because of the money Soon Shiong brings, but because of Soon Shiong’s local roots, which was a significant criticism of Cohen’s group.

So while Dodgers fans are apparently dancing with visions of being the West Coast version of the New York Yankees, here’s some potentially terrible news about Cohen’s group’s involvement with Tony La Russa.

There’s just one problem with Tony La Russa becoming a key decision-maker for the Los Angeles Dodgers if Steve Cohen succeeds in buying the club.

La Russa is such a strong personality, his presence might diminish the Dodgers’ chances of hiring one of the top current general managers, according to rival executives.

The next owner of the club could retain GM Ned Colletti and give him the chance to operate with a payroll greater than $90 million, the Dodgers’ figure this season. But if the owner wants his own man, an incoming GM might balk at working for La Russa, who has zero front-office experience.

All of this is speculation; the bidding is not nearly complete. But, as rival execs see it, a GM such as the Tampa Bay Rays’ Andrew Friedman or Arizona Diamondbacks’ Kevin Towers likely would not leave their current situations for limited autonomy in L.A.

Yeah … barf.

Ned Colletti already had his chance with a payroll of more than $90 million dollars, and I think we all remember what he did with it.

La Russa being an obstacle to somebody like Andrew Friedman coming to the Dodgers just says it all. Money is great, but I prefer the correct baseball people being put in place over most everything else. I’d rather have Friedman with a $125 million payroll than Colletti with a $200 million one, that’s for sure.

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With Cohen’s addition of Soon Shiong, it’s widely accepted that they are now the favorites, and Maury Brown has an awesome detailed breakdown of the four remaining groups at Baseball Prospectus.

Basically, as has been previously covered, the Magic Johnson/Stan Kasten group is the best fit in terms of overall monetary bid, front office experience, and local ties, but the amount of cash equity is unknown. Cohen’s group offers a ton of cash equity and he solved the local ties problem with the addition of Soon Shiong. However, his company’s insider trading investigations is a red flag and what they seem to be planning to do on the baseball side of things is horrifying.

Both have their pluses and minuses, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they are the main players.

The race is really coming down to two groups in Magic/Kasten and Cohen. The distance for the other two, along with cross-ownership concerns, is likely enough to move Kroenke and Heisley/Ressler out of the picture. As a result, it seems as though it’s going to boil down to the bankruptcy court and Frank McCourt.

McCourt has a chance to go out a winner in selecting the Magic/Kasten group. While the cash piece is critical, unless it is so far out of skew as to not be competitive, it would be smart to take the goodwill and operational excellence that comes with Magic/Kasten, which is head and shoulders above the others in this regard. By the same token, if the deal is structured closely to Cohen’s, MLB needs to push for the same. There’s every reason to want the Magic/Kasten group in place, and who knows? If the Mets continue to slide into the abyss, the league might be able to have their cake and eat it too. Magic/Kasten could own the Dodgers and Cohen could land his more favored Mets.

Taking everything into consideration, an ever so slight edge is going to Cohen winning the day. While it may not be the best ownership group at the moment, the group does seem the most likely to be destined for a win. In that, Magic/Kasten could have by far the best winning—yet losing—group in the mix.

Not the best or the smartest, but the one with the most money.

Not the start I would want.

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