The Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the most recognizable sports franchises on the planet, will be getting their third owner inside of a decade, this time being sold to a team of buyers that includes retired basketball star Magic Johnson.
Guggenheim Partners, the group aiming to acquire baseball's Dodgers for some $2 billion or so, is planning what would be the costliest team acquisition in history, including land, and amount to nearly five times what Frank McCourt paid in 2004 when he bought the team from News Corp.'s Fox unit. The successful bidders also include baseball executive Stan Kasten and Mandalay Entertainment chief Peter Guber. Reports say that Mark Walter, Guggenheim's CEO, will be the controlling owner.
The Dodgers have had plenty of drama in recent months, and there's no doubt fans are hoping this will get the club pointed in the right direction and focused on baseball. McCourt and his wife were going through an ugly divorce, and the marital turmoil played out in the media, dragging the team in to the middle of it. The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy last June, setting the stage for the team's sale.
Just last week, Forbes put a value of $1.4 billion on the Dodgers, placing them second to the New York Yankees' $1.85 billion. The only other team worth 10 figures was the Boston Red Sox at $1 billion. Overall, Forbes said that team values rose 16% on average last year, and the Dodgers easily outpaced that with an increase of 75%.
The prior record holder for a U.S. team's price in any sport was the $1.1 billion sale of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, and it more than doubles the price paid for the Chicago Cubs in 2009. Major League Baseball could still contest the agreement in court.
One of the key components of the deal is Johnson's association with the Guggenheim group. That puts one of the most popular athletes of the modern day, not just in L.A. but anywhere in the world, back in a prominent position in a town where he starred for more than a decade. While playing for basketball's Lakers in the 1980s, Johnson was one of the primary pieces of the team's five NBA titles, and he was among the megastars who gave pro basketball a big popularity and personality boost.
For the Dodgers, the presumed sale is the newest chapter in a very long history for the team. In what's for some baseball fans the bleakest part, the O'Malley family crushed the hearts of Brooklynites when they moved the Dodgers, which they owned, west after the 1957 season. The team had long been in the shadow of the Bronx-based Yankees, but the players gave the borough its championship moment in 1955 by beating their hated rival to the north.
However, for many fans an even bigger event came years before, in 1947. That year, the Dodgers became the first major league team to field an African-American player, when Jackie Robinson suited up and changed the game forever. Robinson is now baseball royalty, but at the time, his place in a sport that up until then had only white players was a gigantic and groundbreaking step.
The Dodgers of the L.A. variety continued to have on-field success, winning the World Series in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988, and claiming some of baseball's biggest legends, including players Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills, manager Tommy Lasorda and announcer Vin Scully -- who's been calling games in 1950.
Anybody still holding out hope that the Dodgers will one day head back toward Flatbush? You can probably go ahead and consider this another delay.