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LA Dodgers to sell team to Magic Johnson group, according to agreement

Dodger Stadium
March 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles Dodgers announced an agreement Tuesday night to sell the team to a group that includes Magic Johnson, the basketball legend who played 13 seasons for the L.A. Lakers, winning five NBA championships and three MVP awards.

The Dodgers made the announcement shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday after Major League Baseball owners approved three finalists for the auction. The agreement is to lead to a transfer of the team by the end of April.

The deal is for a reported $2 billion. That price would shatter the record for a North American sports franchise, topping the $1.1 billion Stephen Ross paid for the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 2009.

The deal is one of several steps toward a sale of the team by the end of April.

The deal is subject to approval in federal bankruptcy court.

The acquiring group will gain the ability to sell the Dodgers' local broadcasting rights starting with games in 2014.

It remains to be seen whether Major League Baseball will challenge the deal in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, where the case is before Judge Kevin Gross.

Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would become the controlling owner.

McCourt paid $430 million in 2004 to buy the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that include the parking lots, from the Fox division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., a sale that left the team with about $50 million in cash at the time. The team's debt stood at $579 million as of January, according to a court filing, so even after the divorce payment, taxes and legal and banking fees, he stands to make several hundred million dollars.

The winning-bid group includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson and former Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten. Kasten is expected to wind up as the team's top day-to-day executive.

"I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles," Johnson said in a statement.

Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners would become the controlling owner. The price would be easily a record for a North American sports franchise.

As part of the agreement, the Dodgers said McCourt and "certain affiliates of the purchasers" would acquire the land surrounding Dodger Stadium for $150 million.

The current record for a baseball franchise is the $845 million paid by the Ricketts family for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

Magic Johnson retired from the NBA in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDs. He briefly came out of retirement in 1995-96 and did a short stint coaching the Lakers. Since leaving basketball behind he has been hugely successful in business, investing in movie theaters, a production company and restaurants. He has also been activist in the fight against HIV.


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