Sale of Dodgers finalized

Updated: May 2, 2012, 11:48 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- The tumultuous Frank McCourt era is over for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The $2 billion sale of the team to Guggenheim Baseball Management, a group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson, was finalized Tuesday.

McCourt met with Dodgers employees Tuesday, expressing his appreciation, and introduced new controlling owner Mark Walter, said Howard Sunkin, a spokesman for McCourt.

Walter is chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners. The team will be run by former Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten. They will hold a news conference Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.

"The Dodgers move forward with confidence in a strong financial position as a premier Major League Baseball franchise and as an integral part of and representative of the Los Angeles community," according to a joint statement by McCourt and the new owners.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said he's pleased the sale is finished and the Dodgers can have a fresh start after the "unbecoming events of recent years."

"It is my great hope and firm expectation that today's change in ownership marks the start of a new era for the Los Angeles Dodgers and that this historic franchise will once again make the city of Los Angeles proud," Selig said in a statement.

The timing couldn't have come at a better time for Dodgers fans, who are excited about having their team leading the National League. The team moved to 17-7 after holding off Colorado 7-6 on Tuesday night at Coors Field.

"It's been a positive since the announcement of Magic and his group," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said in an interview on 710 ESPN's "Mason & Ireland Show." "You could feel a difference with the fans instantly. There's been so much negative for the last few years that it just gets kind of old for guys that are playing because people aren't showing up and it doesn't have anything to do with if you win or not.

"And I think the energy's been great with the new group. Hearing the things these guys are talking about wanting to do, it fits in right with what we want to do. We came to win. These guys come and they work hard, and at the end of the day they want to be fighting for a championship, and it sounds like the group we have coming are all about that."

Said Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp: "I think the fans of LA are pretty excited about the new ownership and what it's bringing. As long as L.A. is happy, I'm happy. As long as we're winning, I'm happy."

The Dodgers have won six World Series titles but none since 1988, when they were still owned by the O'Malley family that moved the team from Brooklyn to California after the 1957 season.

The sale was part of a reorganization plan after McCourt took the team into bankruptcy last June. A federal judge approved the deal last month.

The sale was supposed to close Monday, the day McCourt was to make a $131 million payment to former wife Jamie McCourt as part of their divorce settlement. The team's statement said all claims will be paid. Jamie McCourt did receive her payout on Monday.

McCourt bought the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that includes the parking lots from the Fox division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in a $430 million deal in 2004. Fox bought the team in 1998, then sold it to McCourt.

Despite the Dodgers making the playoffs the first four out of six seasons under McCourt's ownership, the off-the-field saga took attention away from the team as he and Jamie McCourt became involved in a protracted divorce battle during which their lavish spending habits were revealed in court documents and testimony.

In April 2011, MLB appointed former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer to monitor the Dodgers on behalf of Selig, who said he was concerned about the team's finances and how the Dodgers were being run.

The team filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after Selig rejected a proposed broadcast rights deal with Fox Sports that McCourt said would have alleviated worries about covering payroll.

The team's debt stood at $579 million as of January, according to a court filing, but McCourt stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars.

The sale price set a record; Stephen Ross forked out $1.1 billion for the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 2009, and Malcolm Glazer and his family took over England's Manchester United soccer club seven years ago in a deal then valued at $1.47 billion.

The previous record for a baseball franchise was the $845 million paid by the Ricketts family for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw said the ownership issues didn't weigh on the team last year because it was out of the players' control. He said the squad has had an opportunity to meet the new owners and he's excited about the future.

"It's the end, but it's also the beginning," Kershaw said. "It's a cool time."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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