There's been plenty of speculation about who might buy the Dodgers out of bankruptcy. But today's the day that the bids are going to start coming in. This is a "soft" deadline, meaning that yet another rich guy who wants to buy the team could still put in a bid. But at this point we have a fair idea of who the major players are likely to be.
The Dodgers could sell for anywhere from $800 billion to $2 billion, based on reported speculation. At the LATimes, Bill Shaikin does the math and concludes that Dodgers owners Frank McCourt is on the hook to various creditors and his impending ex-wife for just north of $1 billion. So a we're probably talking about a sale price of around $1.5 billion.
Here's how the sale process will work. McCourt and Blackstone Advisory Partners will take the initial bids. They expect 20, and Major League Baseball says it will consider 10. However, given that there's only a few months between now and April 1, when it's anticipated that McCourt will announce a winning buyers, there probably won't be that many.
I'm guessing more like six. The short list of known ultra-rich buyers would include hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen; LA private-equity investor Tom Barrack of Colony Capital; developer Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre; Magic Johnson, who's partnered with Mark Walter of Guggenheim Partners; Dallas Mavericks owners Mark Cuban, who has already tried to buy the Chicago Cubs and the Texas Rangers; and maybe Ron Burkle, who owns part of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, or Larry Ellison of Oracle fame, who attempted to buy the Golden State Warriors last year.
Oh, the Disney family and its investment fund could also make the cut.
Many fans would probably be most happy if Cuban or Caruso/Torre come out as the winner. However, Cuban has already shown that he'd be willing to bargain with McCourt for the embattled current owners to retain control of the parking lots at Dodgers Stadium, to get the price down. At this juncture, a lower price may not be what McCourt wants.
And it's not clear that Caruso, although quite rich, can out-rich either Cohen (net worth: $8 billion) or Barrack and Colony (assets under management: $30-plus billion).
It's not as if McCourt will be able to preside over a complete free-for-all in the auction. If there's a big difference between the initial offer and the sale price, MLB reserves the right to go over the numbers again.
A side player in all this could be Fox or Time Warner. Fox sold the team to McCourt and has the broadcast rights, but they expire in 2013. Time Warners want to get the broadcast rights and could pay anywhere from $1 to $3 billion for the privilege. I can't see how these two could join forces without raising some anti-trust issues. But there's been speculation that one or the other could come in on a deal with another bidder.
It's going to be a lively next few months in baseball land, as we race toward opening day on April 5.