Stan Kroenke's bid to own the Los Angeles Dodgers has been a source of much consternation for St. Louis Rams fans, at least the fans who would like to see the team stick around the city. Kroenke is one of four finalists in the running for the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium, but he may not be the favorite.
Owning the Dodgers would put Kroenke at odds with the NFL's rules about cross-market ownership once the league makes its inevitable return to Los Angeles, something that could happen in 2013 or five years later. Those cross-ownership rules and the potential for backlash could make MLB a little skittish about a Kroenke-owned Dodgers, according to Murray Brown at Baseball Prospectus who summed up the Dodgers' race at BP on Monday morning.
However, the potential for headaches is not what puts Kroenke in third place. Hometown connections and cash have two other groups out in front.
The race is really coming down to two groups in Magic/Kasten and Cohen. The distance for the other two, along with cross-ownership concerns, is likely enough to move Kroenke and Heisley/Ressler out of the picture. As a result, it seems as though it's going to boil down to the bankruptcy court and Frank McCourt.
The Magic/Kasten group has the know-how and hometown connections that appeal to Major League Baseball. Magic Johnson is well-known in LA for obvious reasons. Stan Kasten is known around MLB as a takeover artist, the man who handled the transition of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. Magic/Kasten also has Peter Guber in the mix, a man who has made billions in the entertainment business, from movies to sports.
Magic/Kasten has the highest offer for the team with $1.6 billion.
The ability to pay cash, specifically $900 million in equity up front, puts hedge fund manager Steven Cohen in the lead, according to Brown. With almost a billion dollars in cash on the table, the new owners can start fresh with the Dodgers' television rights, not having to use that revenue to pay off debt financing. That presents a healthy financial future for one of baseball's most iconic teams; MLB values that greatly.
Cohen also has Tony La Russa in the mix, part of the future front office team. St. Louis Cardinals fans know that La Russa basically ran the personnel decisions in his time here, so he has some experience even if he has never had the title.
But the La Russa addition is nominal compared to the addition of Patrick Soon-Shiong, LA's richest man, to the mix. Soon-Shiong was expected to join the Magic/Kasten bid, so this is something of a coup. It also gives Cohen's group local ties.
If you have a subscription to Baseball Prospectus, you should read Brown's entire article. This is a complex issue with no easy answers.
For St. Louis area fans wanting to keep the Rams under the Arch, this is good news. Just don't get too comfortable with it. Kroenke's dalliance with the Dodgers, making it all the way to the final four, signals that he is perfectly willing to move the Rams. Given the direction of lease negotiations with the Dome, he should be in order to extract a more favorable deal or even a new facility.
Whether or not that makes fiscal and economic sense for the taxpayers of the city and state or even the path of urban development in St. Louis, is up for debate. Investing big dollars in pro sports usually has only a nominal benefit, by the way.
Owning the Dodgers is hardly the only way for Kroenke to get the NFL to LA. It is the most personally lucrative given the potential for the facility and the television deal. Only Kroenke knows what Kroenke is thinking. Leverage might have only been a side benefit to pursuing a golden goose like the Dodgers.
Frank McCourt will decide on a new owner for his baseball team on April 1. Rams fans will have to wait much longer than that before they know any future certainty about their team.