Basketball legend Magic Johnson led a group that won an auction for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team Tuesday night, marking the final chapter in a soap-opera-style saga for the legendary franchise.
With a bid of $2.15 billion, including the surrounding land, Mr. Johnson, controlling partner Mark Walter and partners Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly beat out a group of some of the wealthiest businessmen in the country to land a team that is one of Major League Baseball’s flagship franchises. The sales figure shatters the previous record sales price for a U.S. sports franchise, Steve Ross’s purchase of the Miami Dolphins for $1.1 billion three years ago.
But buying the Dodgers now comes with a unique opportunity to launch a potentially lucrative regional sports network in the country’s second-largest market, or sign a new local broadcast deal with the current broadcaster, News Corp.’s Fox unit, which has already offered the team a 17-year extension valued at nearly $3 billion. (News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal).
The sales process was led by Blackstone LP, the New York-based investment advisory firm, which held the auction Tuesday evening, just hours after Major League Baseball approved three finalists in the bidding, allowing current owner Frank McCourt to accept the highest and best offer.
Mr. McCourt filed the team for bankruptcy protection in June amid a deepening cash crisis and an ongoing feud with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
The deal allows Mr. McCourt to enter into a joint venture with the new owners on the land surrounding the stadium.
In a statement, the Los Angeles Dodgers stated, “This transaction underscores the Debtors’ objective to maximize the value of their estate and to emerge from Chapter 11 under a successful Plan of Reorganization, under which all creditors are paid in full.”
Mr. McCourt said the agreement “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.”
In a statement, Earvin Magic Johnson said, “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.”
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