Joe Torre to try to buy Dodgers

Updated: January 5, 2012, 3:45 PM ET
ESPNLosAngeles.com

Joe Torre has quit his job with Major League Baseball to pursue ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the league announced on Wednesday.

Torre was named executive vice president for baseball operations in February and took the lead for on-field discipline and umpiring, among other duties.

"I am so appreciative of the chance (commissioner Bud Selig) gave me to see the game from a different perspective by working for Major League Baseball, especially during such a great time for our sport," Torre said in a statement. "I have made this decision because of a unique chance to join a group that plans to bid for the Dodgers. After leaving the field, this job was an incredible experience, one that I enjoyed very much. I want to thank the commissioner and all of my colleagues over the last year, particularly the members of the baseball operations group and the major league umpires."

Torre, who turns 72 in July, managed the Dodgers from 2008-10 after 12 years as skipper of the New York Yankees, a run in which he won six pennants and four World Series titles.

The Dodgers sought bankruptcy protection in June after Selig rejected a new TV deal with Fox that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was counting on to keep the franchise solvent. The Dodgers ultimately reached an agreement with the league that calls for a sale of both the team and the media rights. The team must be sold by April 30.

MLB senior vice presidents Joe Garagiola Jr., Kim Ng and Peter Woodfork will replace Torre on an interim basis, the league announced, saying that a permanent replacement will be named at a later date.

"Joe has been an invaluable resource for me and all of us at Major League Baseball this year and has splendidly communicated with our on-field personnel, general managers and the umpires," Selig said in the statement. "I understand his desire to pursue an opportunity in Los Angeles. Joe has been a life-long friend and I know that will continue in the future."

A number of groups have expressed interest in buying the Dodgers. Former team stars Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser headline one group, Lakers legend Magic Johnson leads another, while former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley has put his name in the ring.

The team will be sold by the Blackstone group, a New York-based investment firm selected by Frank McCourt. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said he would be interested in the Dodgers at the right price.

Initial bids for the team are due by Jan. 23 with the Blackstone Group. The price likely will break the record for a baseball franchise, topping the $845 million paid by the Ricketts family for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

At least six prospective bidders for the team have received initial clearance from Major League Baseball to enter into discussions with the Blackstone Group, according to multiple sources close to the process who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Those prospective ownership groups all received "bid books" from Blackstone over the the last two weeks, meaning MLB has given a preliminary sign-off for those groups to enter into discussions with Blackstone. However, that does not mean they would be formally approved by three-fourths of baseball's 30 owners should they win the bidding for the team. That approval will be more formal, thorough and come much later in the bidding process, according to sources.

Torre's group is backed by Los Angeles real estate developer Rick Caruso. He is known for building high-end outdoor shopping centers, including The Grove at Farmers Market.

"In Rick I found a partner who understands consumers and fully appreciates that the Dodgers are a treasured LA institution," Torre said. "Since moving to Los Angeles, I have seen firsthand Rick's dedication to business and the people of Los Angeles."

Characterizing himself as a "lifelong Angeleno," Caruso said: "Joe and I believe in the Dodgers and Dodger fans and know that together we will foster a winning culture and deliver a premier, fan-focused baseball experience at Dodger Stadium."

Winners of six World Series titles but none since 1988, the Dodgers have been in turmoil since October 2009, when Frank and Jamie McCourt separated and Frank fired her as the team's chief executive officer.

Selig installed former Rangers president Tom Schieffer as the Dodgers' financial monitor in April, ruling he must approve any expense of $5,000 or more.

The Dodgers finished third in the NL West at 82-79, had just three sellouts and fell short of 3 million in home attendance in a full season for the first time since 1992.

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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