The sale process for the Los Angeles Dodgers continues. On Friday night, the Los Angeles Times reported that two bidders had been eliminated from the process, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former sports agent and estate planner Dennis Gilbert. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is still believed to be in the mix among the eight finalists for the team.
Kroenke would still have to be selected as a bidder. That might hinge on a couple factors, including the future of the land where Dodger Stadium sits and its ability to hold an NFL facility. The details after the jump.
The bids went through an initial vetting by Blackstone Advisory Partners. Kroenke is not the only high profile bidder left in the process. A group led by Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson made the cut, as did a group headlined by Joe Torre. Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen and the family of the late Roy Disney, Walt's nephew, are also in the mix.
Patrick Soon-Shiong, LA's richest man, is also exploring the possibility of getting into the mix for the Dodgers, according to the LA Times, linking up with one another bidder.
From here, Major League Baseball conducts the next round of vetting, making sure potential bidders meet their standards. After that, Frank McCourt, the current owner, will select the winning bidder. He has pledged to announce the winner by April 1, with the sale being completed by April 30.
The team is expected to fetch a sale price of $1.5 billion. That price tag is relatively small compared to the potential for tens of billion of dollars in television rights, and the ability to develop and own a regional broadcasting network centered around the Dodgers. Similar to what the Yankees have with YES, with is technically owned by the Yankees owners and not the team, that could make the Dodgers' new owner even more money than just selling the television rights.
Kroenke has a background with sports networks, owning one for his Denver sports enterprises, which include the Nuggets and the Avalanche. Ok, technically his son owns those teams now. That point certainly won't be lost on MLB in the process, as they look to find an owner who can restore the Dodgers to financial prominence and a lofty national sports brand. MLB has a long had a preference for insiders, people with connections to Bud Selig or the name brand to restore a franchise, a la the group led by Nolan Ryan that purchased the Texas Rangers.
There's another issue complicating the sale of the Dodgers. The buyer will receive the team and Dodger Stadium, but the parking lots around the facility will still belong to McCourt, a parking lot baron of sorts. How a developer plans to handle that issue could go a long way in picking the next owner.
Selecting the winner is not as simple as handing the keys to Dodger Stadium to the highest bidder. McCourt will likely want someone capable of paying cash on the barrel head. A plan for the real estate question will be key too.
Two questions surround Kroenke's potential purchase as it relates to the future of the Rams.
First, there's the little matter of the league's cross-ownership rules. Right now, owning the Dodgers would not present a problem for Kroenke since the NFL has no team in LA. If Kroenke owned the Dodgers and the NFL were to move a team there, it could throw a kink into those rules. Would he be grandfathered in if the league moved there after he bought a team? Some are citing that rule and Kroenke's potential purchase as a sure sign that the Rams would move to LA.
I asked Maury Brown of the Business of Sports about the ownership situation. Not surprisingly, he called it a "gray area." The NFL made some generous exceptions for Kroenke to buy the Rams, so I can't imagine there wouldn't be some wiggle room in finding a solution again. You can read a copy of the league's constitution on Brown's site. Here's the rule as it pertains to cross-ownership:
That the controlling owner of an NFL club may acquire an interest in a major league baseball, basketball or hockey ("other major sports league") franchise (subject to prior notice to the Commissioner and to such covenants and safeguards as the Commissioner and Finance Committee may determine are appropriate to address actual or perceived conflicts of interest that may arise in the particular situation), but only if such other franchise is located (1) within the home territory of the owner's NFL club, or (2) within a neutral area, i.e., any area that is not within the home territory of any NFL club;
I'm not a lawyer, but you can see that the verbiage leaves room for creative solutions.
A second factor is that land around Dodger Stadium. Some believe McCourt wants to hang onto to it, using it to recoup some of the income he lost in the messy divorce.
The NFL has long had an eye on it as the potential site for a stadium, and that's where this could get really interesting with Kroenke. Neither of the current LA stadium proposals are much closer to shovel-ready than they were a year ago.
The city council and the state government have made some arrangements to ease the path to construction, notably clearing out some red tape hurdles for environmental impact suits in exchange for some green technology and the promise of jobs. The NFL has never really blessed either of those bids, preferring to find the best deal between the two or another location.
One appeal for Kroenke in purchasing the Rams was their lease on the Ed Jones Dome. It gave him an easy out and a ticket to get a stadium of his very own, stadiums being big cash cows that don't get thrown into the NFL revenue sharing pie.
The AEG stadium downtown would not offer Kroenke ownership. The Ed Roski stadium in the City of Industry might, and the Dome belongs to Missouri taxpayers. Another benefit of owning the Dodgers for Kroenke is the potential to build an NFL stadium there. That will depend on what Frank McCourt wants to do with his land, but he might be swayed by a bidder that wants to bring him into a lucrative stadium development deal. If Kroenke woos McCourt with that, the Rams will most likely be heading back to Southern California.