A group that includes the former Lakers star as well as longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday to buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt for $2 billion. That not only shatters the record paid for a baseball team, it beats out the record for any price ever paid for a major league sports franchise.
In 2009, Stephen Ross paid $1.1 billion for the NFL's Miami Dolphins. In 2005 in England, Malcolm Glazer and his family took over the Manchester United soccer club in 2005 in a deal then valued at $1.47 billion.
The big price tag and big names are getting fans pumped up for the team's future. The team announced Wednesday that opening day was sold out.
"I was delighted," said fan Henry Carrillo. "He would be the best man to buy the Dodgers. He knows what he's doing. He's a business man. I would go to more games now."
Fellow fan Mike Narhara said the new deal will not only benefit the Dodgers, but the city of Los Angeles as well.
"It's great for the city of L.A. to get an owner that finally cares about the team or baseball. It should be good for the city," Narhara said.
As part of the agreement, the new owners, McCourt and "certain affiliates of the purchasers" will acquire the land around the Dodger Stadium for $150 million, and the new owners will also now gain the ability to sell the team's local broadcasting rights starting with games in 2014.
McCour'ts involvement is a source of complaint for many fans. A 710 ESPN Radio caller said anything McCourt touches in connection with the Dodgers is "poison."
"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.
One of the controlling partners assured fans that McCourt would not be involved in day-to-day baseball decisions and that he will not control parking. However, he will have a stake in the land surrounding Dodger Stadium.
Retired Dodgers Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda was pleased to hear the news and said he has confidence in the new owners.
"Magic, he's just not a basketball player. He knows about sports and he's a successful business man, so he got involved with them and it's good that he did. I'm happy that he did. I'm happy that Stan Kasten got the bid," Lasorda said.
Dodgers players were excited for Magic to begin, too.
"I was a little shocked and surprised but I think it's a happy day for everybody in L.A. and for the Dodgers," said Matt Kemp after a spring training game in Arizona.
Despite the Dodgers' current debt being in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the new deal is so large that McCourt actually stands to make money.
The deal is subject to approval in federal bankruptcy court by April 6, ahead of a hearing seven days later, and the sale completed by April 30, the day McCourt is to make a divorce settlement payment.
"This agreement with Guggenheim reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community," McCourt said in a statement.
In addition to Kasten, who is the former president of the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals, Guggenheim Baseball Management includes Mandalay Entertainment chief executive Peter Guber, Guggenheim Partners president Todd Boehly and Bobby Patton, who operates oil and gas properties among his investments.
Kasten is expected to wind up as the team's top day-to-day executive.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa talked to Johnson Tuesday night about buying the Dodgers. He congratulated him and said he's looking forward to a commitment from Johnson's investment group.
"They're going to see the Dodgers not just as a baseball team, not just as an investment, but as a community asset, something that every Angeleno has a stake in," the mayor said.
Johnson, 52, played 13 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA championships and three MVP awards in a Hall of Fame career. He retired from the NBA in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV. He briefly came out of retirement during the 1995-96 season and had a short stint coaching the Lakers. Since leaving basketball, he has been successful in business, investing in movie theaters, a production company and restaurants. He has also been an activist in the fight against HIV.