Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer reportedly has agreed in principle to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers with the understanding that he will be granted the rights to an NFL franchise in Los Angeles.
An extremely complicated series of transactions would be triggered by such a deal.
Glazer reportedly would sell the Buccaneers, a franchise worth an estimated $606 million, according to Forbes magazine. NFL rules state that one can own two professional sports teams, provided that they are located in the same city, or one can own an NFL team and another major pro sports franchise provided that the non-NFL franchise isn't located in a potential expansion or relocation city for an NFL team.
The NFL, however, seems willing to let Glazer explore alternative arrangements that would allow him to remain owner of the Bucs.
"We've talked to them, and our understanding is that they're looking at it as a family opportunity that would be consistent with our rules on cross-ownership," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in April. "That basically means that whatever they did would involve independent resources, independent financing, and independent management, separate from the Buccaneers, even though it would be possibly a family member."
Glazer would have to purchase the Dodgers for at least $400 million, which would include the team, Dodger Stadium and its spring training home in Vero Beach, Fla. Since the reported deal does not include a stake in Rupert Murdoch's Fox television network or its cable properties, Glazer would rely primarily on stadium revenue. Dodger Stadium is in need of renovations that could cost its owners tens of millions of dollars. What the NFL doesn't want is Glazer having to use gains from the Buccaneers to support the Dodgers.
Under strict adherence of current NFL rules, Glazer would have to purchase an existing NFL team and move it to Los Angeles, or buy rights to an NFL expansion team that would be located in the L.A. area. The Atlanta Falcons, the most recent NFL franchise to change hands, were purchased for $545 million in 2001. The Minnesota Vikings, whose owner Red McCombs has contemplated selling the team in recent years, are valued at $346 million, according to Forbes. But if McCombs knew that Glazer wanted to buy and move the Vikings to Los Angeles, the price might skyrocket.
There are sure to be protests if Glazer moved an existing team to L.A., likely from Oakland owner Al Davis and San Diego owner Alex Spanos. They also might try to lock Glazer out of being granted an expansion franchise should the league decide it is ready for a 33rd team.
If the NFL wants to make L.A. an expansion franchise, Glazer likely would need help financing the investment. Much of his $750 million net worth is tied up in the Buccaneers. If he buys the Dodgers, he won't have nearly anything close to what it will cost to buy the NFL's rights to the L.A. market. Keeping in mind that Houston Texans owner Bob McNair paid $700 million for the NFL's most recent franchise, Glazer could be looking at a $1 billion price tag, plus the cost of a new stadium and the land on which it will sit. At that price, the NFL could make it easier on Glazer by allowing him to pay in installments over a number of years. But it's not clear that Glazer definitely has the money to do this. Banks that have loaned money to owners are being more cautious given the state of flattering rights fees.
If Glazer does successfully move a team to Los Angeles or is granted an expansion franchise, there is sure to be plenty of fighting over the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum to be the temporary home to Glazer's NFL team.
This could all eventually happen, but it's hard for all of it to be worked out in principle.
Darren Rovell covers sports business for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.