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Time is running out for Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to choose a new owner before opening day. The number of bidders is now down to four. There've also been a few surprises late in the game.
We have roughly two weeks remaining before Dodgers owner Frank McCourt must sell the team. Bidders have been dropping like flies, leaving only a March Madness-appropriate Final Four groups. It remains to be seen whether all four will make it to McCourt's final auction — the Major League Baseball owners doing the eliminating will first send the finalist to a vote by all owners.
Regardless, McCourt has to conduct his auction and choose a winner by the first week in April. The money must change hands by April 30.
Here's who's left:
•Hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen, along with sports agent Arn Tellem and new partners Tony La Russa, the baseball great, and Patrick Soon-Shiong, an Angeleno whose personal wealth is estimated at over $7 billion.
•Former Laker great Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, plus a new financial partner (see below).
Thanks to LAObserved for pointing to this summary of Connie Bruck's big profile of Philip Anschutz and AEG, in the current issue of The New Yorker. The title says it all: "The Man Who Owns L.A." And for the man who owns LA, it's all about getting an NFL team to betray its current fans and commit to the Southland:
Anschutz, who lives in Denver, is intensely private and does little to publicize his ownership of A.E.G. or any of his other business activities. [AEG President Tim] Leiweke wants to create what he calls “the final piece of the puzzle for L.A. Live”: an N.F.L. stadium, to be built adjacent to Staples Center. With a deployable roof, the stadium is intended to house—in addition to football games and Super Bowls—concerts, international soccer games, wrestling and boxing matches, N.C.A.A. Final Fours, and major religious gatherings. Los Angeles has not had an N.F.L. team since 1995, when the Rams and the Raiders, tired of playing in antiquated stadiums, left the city. Leiweke began his campaign last February, with a lavish public event to announce a deal he had made with the Farmers Insurance Company: in exchange for a reported seven hundred million dollars over thirty years, the planned stadium would be named Farmers Field. It was the largest naming-rights deal in sports. The next step will be the most challenging. Anschutz has pledged to spend more than a billion dollars to build the stadium, but he and Leiweke must reach a deal both with the N.F.L. and with one or two teams to move to L.A.
Earlier this week, I took a tour of the Staples Center to check out a substantial technology upgrade throughout the facility (it's called StadiumVision). AEG joined with Cisco and Verizon to improve the way that programming and information can be displayed on HD video screens around the stadium. This ranged from theming and special offers on menu displays at concessions to e-commerce possibilities in the luxury suites.
It was all very interesting and a pretty fair example of high-level business collaboration. AEG, Cisco, and Verizon are hardly small players.
But it was also a glimpse of things to come. I can certainly remember the good old days of sports venues, when advertising, branding, and marketing was far more limited. Now, LA and AEG could very well be on the verge of building a state of the art football stadium Downtown, called Farmers Field. Ambitions for technology to "enhance the fan experience" are running high. The screens could be more numerous and much larger. And there could be a lot more mobile interaction, right down to the level of watching the game via a dynamic live feed to an iPhone app. From what I heard, that's the Holy Grail — you're at the game, but you can hold the game in your hands.
Vehicles pass by a darkened Staples Center on October 10, 2011.
As my new KPCC colleague Eric Richardson reported this morning, NBA commissioner David Stern has decided to cancel the first two weeks of the season, in the face of an ongoing labor impasse. This is going to cost money, in terms of lost ticket sales and the spending that people engage in when they attend games. If more games are cancelled, the costs are going to be significant.
Here's the math, for the sacrificed Lakers and Clippers games at the Staples Center, assuming the cancellation extends throughout the rest of 2011:
- $30 million in ticket sales
- $40 million for everything else
- Grand total: $70 million
As Richardson points out, the $30 million is less relevant than the $40, because the latter is money that won't go to Downtown businesses (the $30 million represents "sunk" costs — money already expended that can't be recovered). The $40 million will get spent elsewhere in the city.
There are currently two competing proposals to build new stadiums and bring the NFL back to L.A. (I've blogged about this a bit already). AEG, developer of the Staples Center, is behind the one that would install our gridiron heroes Downtown. Majestic Reality would build in City of Industry, to the east of the city. In order for either of these plans to get off the ground, an NFL team needs to commit to moving in. And if one does, we'll need to figure out where it will play while the stadium is being constructed.
The Rose Bowl is often mentioned, but there's resistance on that front. There's also a potential problem with using the Coliseum. The Pasadena Star-News nicely summarizes the conflicts.
The Patt Morrison Show did a segment this week about whether a new L.A. NFL stadium would live up to economic expectations, in response to a review by the Legislative Analyst's Office that concluded that Los Angeles won't realize the promised benefits of the AEG project. I'm skeptical that any new stadium will really add up to a jobs bonanza -- entertainment spending isn't powerful enough to move the needle on an unemployment rate in L.A. County that's at 12.4 percent. But there are other reasons why we might want to go with the Downtown stadium (and I hasten to point out that I'm not picking sides here, just laying out what would happen if AEG gets the thumbs up):