The quest to own the Los Angeles Dodgers cleared up a little on Friday. A group of bidders led by real estate man Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre pulled out of the bidding, according to ESPN LA, based on current owner Frank McCourt's refusal to include the parking lots around Dodger Stadium in the bid.
St. Louis Rams owner is still in the mix, though he might not be among the favorites. The parking lot issue also makes for an interesting twist in the saga, especially for any bidder casting an eye on Chavez Ravine as a possible future hom for the NFL.
The Caruso-Torre bid said this about the parking lots when informing the bankers overseeing the process of their decision:
Since the outset, we felt that operationally it would be impossible to effectively manage baseball operations having the parking lots that surround the stadium under separate ownership. We believed that during the bid process that we would have the opportunity to buy the lots.
According to the Los Angeles Times, all of the bidders were under the impression that the parking lots would be negotiable. McCourt said in a recent meeting with Caruso that he intends to keep the lots and develop them. Under the terms of the sale, McCourt's entity that owns the lots, an entity that is not in bankruptcy, can hang on to them and build parking garages if they so desire.
Whoever ends up owning the Dodgers will be on the hook for $14 million per year, a number that goes up in 2015, to lease the parking lots. There is another caveat in the parking lots lease that would require the Dodgers to play in Dodger Stadium until 2030.
Caruso and Torre are not the only ones concerned about the parking lot issue. The LA Times report cites an anonymous source close to the bidding that says at least one offer shaved $300 million off their bid because of the parking lots.
No control over the parking lots could potentially be a hindrance to any owner, especially those who see the potential to turn the venue into a multi-use facility, i.e. one that hosts an NFL team as well.
Because Stan Kroenke owns the St. Louis Rams, owning the Dodgers would put him in violation of the league's cross-ownership rules once the NFL finally returns to LA ... if it ever does. That has fueled speculation that Kroenke's bid for the baseball team is the first step in moving the Rams back to Southern California.
Buying the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium would allow Kroenke to develop his own stadium for NFL football in LA. AEG would own the facility downtown, and the Ed Roski currently owns the potential site in the City of Industry. Owning your own stadium is the new pathway to wealth in the NFL, a cash pipeline that spews most of its money directly into the pockets of owners rather than the revenue sharing pool. Stan Kroenke knows that.
It may not matter. According to the ESPN LA report, Caruso and Torre were considered among the favorites. They cite two other bidders as favorites: a group led by hedge fund manager Steve Cohen and another finance CEO Mark Walter. Both of those groups have some high profiles connections to baseball and the city. Cohen has Steve Greenberg, a former deputy commissioner and a banker for baseball team sales. Walter's group includes Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten, the former president for the Braves and Nationals.
Nine bidders remain in the process. Their detailed bids were due on Thursday for additional vetting by the Blackstone Group before MLB gets involved in the process. McCourt has said that he will decide on a winning bidder by April 1, with an eye toward finalizing the sale on April 30.