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Los Angeles Dodgers: Can Magic Johnson Fix Everything?
By MICHAEL COLLINS
If you and your pals have a few billion dollars sitting around, and you need an investment for a tax write off, why not go and buy yourself a major league baseball team? That's what Magic Johnson and some of his buddies did, and the Los Angeles Dodger faithful are signing his praises...for now. Even Dodgers star Matt Kemp showed his enthusiasm when he tweeted: "Good day 4 the @dodgers! The great @magicjohnson is the new owner!! Let's start a dynasty baby!!''
Johnson - along with MLB/NBA executive Stan Kasten, entertainment mogul Peter Guber and the financing help of Mark Walter, CEO of Guggenheim Partners - agreed to purchase the Dodgers from beleaguered owner Frank McCourt for the record price of $2.15 billion, a price which includes the Chavez Ravine parking lots. The Dodger franchise, which has been suffering under the ownership of McCourt and his personal life battles, has been limping along from year to year while the Dodgers were in bankruptcy.
So for all practical purposes, it would appear that the Dodgers have begun their healing process, and can get back to the business of playing and winning baseball games. Or...have they? When you consider that Mark Cuban (who I consider to be an extremely smart and savvy businessman) stated point blank that he wouldn't even consider paying over $1 billion, and only if that included 100% of the parking revenue, the $2.15 billion price tag with only a portion of the parking revenue (Frank McCourt will still retain revenue on non-game days) may end up being a huge overestimation of the franchises value.
The major hurdles facing this new ownership group are many and not easily overcome. Dodger Stadium is an antique, and not a pretty one. It needs major renovations or possibly to just needs to be replaced altogether. You are looking at potentially $250-300 million in that undertaking alone. Then there's the question of who is going to broadcast games locally, with the Angels sneaking in and getting a TV deal from Fox Sports worth $3 billion over 20 years. Time-Warner and Fox TV have both been mentioned as possibilities, and either of them could potentially throw in an investment stake in exchange for broadcast rights.
The roster is another issue at hand. With ownership changing hands at this late date, Kasten (who will presumably be named president of the club) will not be able to make many changes to this years roster. Most of the free agent moves have been made, and the contracts are already in place for the current team. So the Dodgers of this year...well...pretty much the same Dodgers from last year when you look up and down the lineup.
The Johnson-Kasten group now has until April 30 to close the deal, and make sure there are no deal-killers buried in the contracts. Until then, the other owners in the league are holding their collective breath. If and when this deal is finalized, the value of every team in the league is going to go up significantly, and with that, every executive in the league will begin acting accordingly (ie; price increases, calls to stock brokers, etc, etc)
But with a record deal like this, I only see one way that the Johnson-Kasten group can recoup their huge outlay of cash...you guessed it...raise those beer, food, parking and ticket prices. So once again, the fans will probably have to suffer because of the emotional bidding of some multimillionaires. The culture of baseball is changing, and it seems to be gearing itself towards the rich and privileged. If you look around a major league ballpark these days, you don't see the kids and families that once littered the stands on a regular basis. Deals like this one are causing teams to price themselves completely out of the family market, and - particularly for baseball - that's not good for the game.
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