Sources: 6 groups pass initial step
At least six prospective bidders for the Los Angeles Dodgers have been submitted to Major League Baseball by the New York investment group handling the sale, according to multiple sources close to the process who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Those prospective ownership groups all received "bid books" from the Blackstone Group over the the last two weeks, meaning their names have been submitted to the league office and it is comfortable with them entering into further 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.
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Two sources close to the process estimated that 10-12 groups have received "bid books" from Blackstone so far, and that more could be distributed in the next few weeks.
Those books reveal only preliminary information about the team's financial state and how it will be sold. More detailed information will be released to prospective buyers after the initial bids are submitted by Jan. 23.
The groups led by former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson and baseball executive Stan Kasten; land developer Rick Caruso and former Dodger manager Joe Torre; Dodger greats Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser; and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, billionaire hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen and former owner Peter O'Malley's family, including private equity fund managers Peter and Robert Seidler, have received bid books, according to multiple sources.
The bids submitted by Jan. 23 will be non-binding, according to sources familiar with the process.
"A lot of people can get the bid book," one source said. "And a lot of people will submit a non-binding bid because it's non-binding. But when it's time to talk money, that's when they have to get real. We'll see who is serious after that. Right now there's just a lot of exuberance and talk."
That exuberance, of course, could work in Frank McCourt's favor as he seeks to sell the team for more than the $800 million the team was valued at in the most recent Forbes valuation.
According to two sources who have seen the bid book, but were not authorized to speak publicly about its contents, Blackstone did not include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the bid book. However, prospective buyers have been told that could be negotiable.
Also at issue are the team's future media rights, which are still being litigated. Last week a U.S. District Judge in Delaware said that bankruptcy judge Kevin Gross erred in freeing the team from provisions of its current Fox Sports TV contract.
Fox currently has the rights to produce, record and telecast Dodgers games through the 2013 season. The contract gives Fox certain rights in negotiating an extension, including the right to talk exclusively with the team in advance of competing offers. Gross previously ruled the "no-shop" provisions were unenforceable in bankruptcy.
However U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark ruled that Gross improperly relied on a single case in making his decision and issued an order to halt the Dodgers' plans to sell the media rights to future games as part of the team's impending sale.
Those future media rights, as well as the valuable, undeveloped land around Dodger Stadium, are what could push the final sale price of the team well north of $1 billion.
"We still don't even know what's really for sale here," one source close to the process said. "So it's hard to have any idea of what you're bidding on yet."
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.