Dodgers chair confirms exploration
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers chairman Mark Walter on Tuesday confirmed the team's parent company, Guggenheim Partners, is exploring a bid for sports and entertainment goliath AEG, which owns the Los Angeles Kings, the Galaxy, a portion of the Los Angeles Lakers, Staples Center and Home Depot Center, and is the driving force behind the Farmer Field project in downtown Los Angeles that is hoping to lure an NFL team to the city.
"We're going to look at it," Walter told ESPNLosAngeles.com before the Dodgers' game against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday. "In our business, when you make investments, you look at things. Lots of things. You have no idea how many things we look at. We don't buy them all. That's just what we do."
Walter is the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, which bought the Dodgers for $2.15 billion in April and controls $160 billion in assets worldwide.
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Industry analysts have estimated AEG could sell for around $7 billion. Los Angeles businessman Patrick Soon-Shiong is the most prominent individual to express interest in the company. Reuters last week reported that Soon-Shiong had "joined forces" with Guggenheim in a potential bid but Walter said Tuesday that's a bit overstated.
"We have talked to Patrick because we know he's interested," Walter said. "We just said, 'What are you doing? What are you thinking?'
"If you have the same interests, you can help each other maybe. We always do that. But there's not even a book out yet. There's information out. And there's going to be a book. We've talked to people at AEG about wanting to see a book, yes.
"If a house is for sale, you take a look. Doesn't mean you're moving."
Part of the reason the Dodgers sold for so much is the impending financial windfall the sale of the team's media rights is expected to generate. The Dodgers are in an exclusive negotiating window with Fox that lasts through November.
"We're in discussions with Fox. They're going fine," Walter said. "We hope we reach an agreement; if we don't, we'll keep working."
Asked what he expected the media rights to sell for, Walter said, "It will be a big media deal. If there's any doubt about that, 'No, it will be big.' "
When asked whether the sale price will justify the record price Guggenheim paid for the Dodgers, Walter said, "It's just a part of it. This was not a pure financial transaction, but the value is related to it."
Soon-Shiong was among those in attendance last week as the L.A. City Council unanimously approved plans to build the $1.5 billion stadium project in downtown. The impending sale of AEG had emerged as a potential stumbling block to the stadium proposal, but AEG president Tim Leiweke said it was not a coincidence that Soon-Shiong attended Friday's vote, which went 12-0 in AEG's favor.
"He has made it very clear to everyone he's interested in AEG and he's interested in the NFL," Leiweke said. "When I talk about the kind of people we are talking to now, who will buy this company from Philip Anschutz, I am extremely confident that everyone is going to feel very good about the kind of ownership group we're going to put together."
With the deal approved, there is now a 30-day window for legal challenges, which must be resolved within 175 days, under legislation passed in Sacramento last year with this project in mind. If everything goes according to plan, builders could break ground on Farmers Field by March 2013.
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon and Arash Markazi was used in this report.