Today is a big day on the "Get Frank McCourt Out Of Town" Countdown Calendar. Opening bids for sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers are due. McCourt has an agreement with Commissioner Bud Selig to have the sale completed by April 30, so that means if all goes according to the timeline, the McCourt nightmare will be over in 98 days, and we could know who the new owner is before the first pitch of the 2012 season. Over a dozen potential bidders have identified themselves as being interested, and there could be more. McCourt's asking price for the team and the stadium could exceed a billion dollars.
It's too bad the bidding process isn't like the Republican Presidential campaign. We could have all these candidates participate in numerous debates, and then have certified registered Dodger fans vote to decide the winner. But it doesn't work that way, and fans really don't have a say in the matter. However, if you want to figure out who to root for, here is an alphabetical list of some of the candidates. There could ultimately be as many as 20 prospective buyers. The top dozen or so are listed here...
Ron Burkle: I had to do some Google work on this guy, but Burkle made his money in the supermarket business. He also is a staunch Democrat, and helped finance Al Gore's Current TV network. Burkle owns the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins with former superstar Mario Lemieux and is in the limelight a little bit in Sacramento, trying to keep the NBA Kings in town. According to his Wikipedia page, Burkle has been nicknamed the “Billionaire Party Boy” by the New York Post. Sounds like my kinda guy.
Fred Claire: The former Dodgers General Manager apparently wants back in, and has enough money (and/or friends with money) to try to make it happen. Claire was fired as GM under the Rupert Murdoch regime in 1998, but his Dodger roots go back a lot further than that. Claire was hired as the team's Publicity Director under the O'Malley family in 1969. However, Claire may best be remembered for trading young pitcher Pedro Martinez to the Montreal Expos in 1993, for second baseman Delino Deshields. Martinez went on to pitch 16 more seasons, win over 200 more games, and win three Cy Young Awards, while Deshields had three injury-plagued seasons in Los Angeles.
Steve Cohen/Arn Tellem: I don't know much about Cohen (other than he is worth over eight billion dollars), but I do know a little about Tellem. Tellem is a former sports agent who for awhile was like the Scott Boras of the NBA. Apparently there is a lot of money in the sports agent business. There are two or three former agents going after the Dodgers. Google says Cohen is apparently not a character from The O.C., but is a hedge fund manager from New York.
Mark Cuban: As a (former) media member, I love Mark Cuban. The billionaire owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks really does come across as a regular guy. He wears jeans to games, yells at the referees, and makes fun of the establishment. In my personal experience, he never hesitated to give an interview, and seemed to have opinions and ideas about anything and everything. Having said that, I'm still not sure I'd want him to own my team, but he would certainly shake things up. Cuban has said that he is interested, but would not bid over a billion dollars.
Steve Garvey/Orel Hershiser: Two former Dodgers—one an icon from the seventies and the other a star in the eighties—are serious about purchasing the club. At least if they owned the team, fans wouldn't have to worry about it being run by a bunch of outsiders. Other investors would have to be involved, and Hershiser is quoted as saying that they exist, but they don't want to be known. Other former Dodger players may also be involved in the group. Also, Garvey definitely has lost his squeaky-clean image that he had in the seventies, including some fidelity issues and paternity scandals.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson: The greatest basketball player of all time (sorry Michael Jordan) has also been a very successful business man. He has owned a share of the Lakers, movie theaters, and even Starbucks coffee houses. Almost everything he has ever done has turned to gold (we won't count his late night talk show—The Magic Hour—which had a brief four-month run in syndication in 1998) He has reportedly pooled his millions with former MLB General Manager Stan Kasten. Someone else mentioned this, but how cool would it be to work at the offices of Dodger Stadium, right down the hall from Magic Johnson and Vin Scully?
Larry King: Elysian Park, California. Hello! The long time radio and television talk show host and interviewer of celebrities and newsmakers is reportedly part of a group headed up by former agent Dennis Gilbert. Gilbert was one of the bidders for the Texas Rangers, but the team ended up going to Nolan Ryan. King is also a long time Dodger season ticket holder, and I saw him at Dodger Stadium the last time I was there and had good seats. I wish I had seen Alyssa Milano instead. I wonder if she'd be interested.
Peter O'Malley/Roy Disney: When O'Malley sold the team to Rupert Murdoch and Fox in 1998, he said that family ownership in sports was dead. Now he wants to bring it back, or at least have two families run a franchise. Stanley Gold is the guy who manages Disney's personal holdings and is also in on the bid. The Walt Disney Company, which sold the Angels to Arte Moreno after a World Series title in 2002, is not part of the deal.
Joe Torre: Before becoming the Dodgers manager in 2008, Torre was considered a New York guy, having managed the Yankees for the previous 12 seasons and winning four World Series in five years. But Torre has quit his post in the MLB front office in order to pursue ownership of the Dodgers. It seems Torre would be the face of ownership, with financial backing from multi-billionaire banker Rick Caruso. It's been written in many publications that Caruso is the only banker trusted by Warren Buffett.
Time Warner Cable: It makes perfect business sense for Time Warner to bid on the Dodgers, but it would also be a disaster. Time Warner wants to win the right to televise Dodger games, and what better way to do it than to actually own the team. It seemed to work for the Tribune Company and the Cubs, and Ted Turner and the Braves, but we all saw what Rupert Murdoch and Fox did to the Dodgers. Time Warner's only real interest in the team is the TV rights, and keeping those rights away from current holder Fox Sports.
Others: Tom Barrack, owner of an investment firm and has owned foreign sports teams... Alan Casden, an LA area land developer who bid on the Dodgers last time...The Los Angeles Times reports the husband of actress Jami Gertz (his name is Tony Ressler) and some guy reportedly dating former tennis player Monica Seles (Tom Golisano) are also potential bidders. Golisano is also a part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and founder of the payroll service company Paychex. For Ressler, do you think his chances are "Less Than Zero"? Maybe after the first round, his bid will be "Still Standing".
“Not top candidates” include...
Frank McCourt: Yes, McCourt would love to continue to own the Dodgers, but it's not going to happen. However, McCourt owns the parking lots that surround Dodger Stadium, and for some reason, that land does not have to be included in the sale. McCourt would get a bigger price if he did include the land, but what a middle finger it would be to Commissioner Bud Selig, Major League Baseball, and Dodger fans if he kept the lots, and charged people 25 dollars to park there.
Me: For some reason, I wasn't invited to participate in the auction even though I have said that I would gladly kick in twenty bucks. I went through all my finances, did some creative accounting, and was able to come up with $428.72. Unfortunately, that's about how much Santa Barbara County charges for a speeding ticket these days. I still think if I can get two million of my closest friends to kick in 500 dollars a piece, we'd stand a chance. Anyone?