Like Magic, the revitalized Los Angeles Dodgers are back in business! After former owner Frank McCourt declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy less than a year ago, there is officially new ownership in town for one of Major League Baseball’s most storied franchises. The man at the forefront of the ownership transition is no stranger to the Hollywood lifestyle, and there is no celebrity figure more fitting for a blockbuster deal of this magnitude. A bidding group led by legendary LA Laker, Earvin “Magic” Johnson inked a deal this week to purchase the Dodgers for a mind-blogging $2.15 billion. Read that again. Two-point-one-five-BILLION-dollars!
This enormous price tag goes down as the most expensive sports franchise purchase in the history of professional athletics. To put this in perspective, back in 2009, the historic Chicago Cubs franchise was handed over to the highest bidder at a $845 million clip. For what Magic & Co. spent, they could’ve purchased the Cubs…nearly three times!
From ear-to-ear, Magic isn’t the only man smiling right now. In fact, the biggest (crooked) smile belongs to McCourt, the guy who hadn’t been able to do anything right—until now.
Ex-owner McCourt’s life had been in shambles. He led a perennially underachieving roster for eight years to just a combined record of (675-620). Four playoff stints never resonated any real hope in the City of Angels. His teams were never terrible, but seemed to always be considered underwhelming by the baseball masses. They never had that “it” factor sports gurus rave about when it comes to a championship-caliber organizations. Despite mediocrity, McCourt chose to raise both ticket and parking costs year-after-year. By Spring 2011, McCourt had dug his franchise into such tremendous debt that he couldn’t even afford to pay the team’s payroll. When word got out that McCourt sought a loan from Fox, MLB commissioner, Bud Selig had seen/heard enough. Selig snatched the keys to the city away from McCourt and forced him to sell the only team he’d ever owned. Oh, to top that off—McCourt’s wife was divorcing him, demanding a giant chunk of change he didn’t even have.
And then, like magic, the deal of the century happened. Economists estimate that the settled upon price tag was overpriced by $800 million. Three viable ownership candidates juggled an auction style bidding war that inevitably raised the financial bar much higher than it needed to be. As a result, not only will the former owner be able to settle with his wife this April for $131 million, but he’ll be able to live comfortably until the day he dies. That is clearly an understatement. Experts on the deal estimate that McCourt will soon receive a check addressed to his name for roughly one billion dollars (before taxes, of course!).
With McCourt riding off into the sunset, pessimists remain. Where the Dodgers can possibly go from here? What does the roster think of the new ownership? What kind of television network will they pursue to try to mitigate the existing debt issues? Will there be any money left over to go after big names in free agency? What about the aging ballpark—how can the new ownership group possibly invest more money on facilities on top of their billions already spent? How will the new ownership go about addressing fan safety and advancements on security? Remember the Bryan Stowe incident?
The speculative debate continues in the Dodgers Sold trap!