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Q&A: What role is the Blackstone Group playing in AEG sale?

Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman

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Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Blackstone has been hired by AEG to explore a sale of the sports and entertainment giant.

Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) — the huge L.A.-based media, events, and sports company owned by reclusive Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz — is looking at selling itself. In whole? In parts? What does this all mean for an AEG-backed Downtown L.A. NFL stadium? It's unclear. Buyers are already being talked about, with the richest man in L.A., biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, already nominated as a bidder. Makes sense, as he was a late arrival to the bidding war for the L.A. Dodgers, losing out to the eventual new owners, Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Baseball Management.

He's worth around $7 billion. Phil Anschutz is worth around $8 billion. It would be a match of lucky $7 billionaire and the billionaire who has a billion more. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. AEG has hired Blackstone, an investment bank that managed the Dodgers sale, to work on a potential AEG deal. This isn't as easy as selling the Dodgers, which both had to be sold (former owner Frank McCourt put the team in bankruptcy over a dispute with Major League Baseball and also had to contend with paying his divorce settlement to his ex-wife) and was more concentrated in its assets. AEG is a far-flung holding company that owns pieces of L.A. sports teams, international sports teams, entertainment venues, live events, theaters, and even hotels. 

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San Diego Padres sale is finalized and at $800 million, it's third largest in MLB history

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks

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Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres dives for a ground ball against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Padres have officially changed hands, for $800 million.

It’s official — the San Diego Padres have changed hands, in a deal that ranks as the third largest in the history of Major League Baseball. MLB's owners approved the sale today.

The Padres weren’t sold in time for the All-Star Game, but for previous owner John Moores, the wait was probably worth it. MLB said "Yea" to an $800 million deal. Only the Chicago Cubs and the Dodgers sold for more, at $845 million and — when the parking lot side deal was added in — $2.3 billion, respectively.

Speaking of the Dodgers, there’s some of their DNA in the new ownership group. One-time Dodgers owners Peter O’Malley’s sons Kevin and Brian have joined pro golfer Phil Mickelson and San Diego businessman Ron Fowler to form the Padres new ownership group. Two of O’Malley’s nephews are also in on the deal. Fowler, interestingly, was also involved with a minority ownership group run by former Padres CEO Jeff Moorad. 

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San Diego Padres sale completed for $800 million, league owners to vote on August 16

San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies

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Starting pitcher Anthony Bass of the San Diego Padres. The team was just sold to a new ownership group for $800 million.

Pretty much as expected, the San Diego Padres sale to heirs of former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley — plus pro golfer Phil Mickelson and, according to the San Diego U-T, Ron Fowler — has gone through for $800 million. Padres owner John Moores and minority owner Jeff Moorad sealed the deal tonight.

As has been widely reported prior to the deal closing, $200 million of the $800 million is part of the payment that the Padres received when they recently did a 20-year, $1.4-billion broadcast deal with Fox Sports. Fowler, a San Diego businessman, had said that he wasn't front-and-center in the new investor group, but it appears that he has stepped away from the minority ownership group and is now assuming a role with the new owners.

Major League Baseball's owners still have to vote on the deal. They could do this on August 16. But the vote will likely be a formality, given that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has effectively given his blessing to the new ownership group. As David Carter, professor of sports business at the USC Marshall School of Business and the Executive Director of the USC Sport Business Institute, explained to me when we talked about the deal in early July:

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Will the Padres be sold by the All-Star break?

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks

Norm Hall/Getty Images

Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres dives for a ground ball against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team is in negotiations with potential new owners, but may not seal the deal in time for the All-Star Game.

Last week, there was some serious speculation that the San Diego Padres would be sold by current owner John Moores to a group led by the O'Malley family (of Dodgers fame) with investors that include pro golfer Phil Mickelson in time for the All-Star Game, which takes place on July 10. 

We're obviously running out of days for that to happen. However, the O'Malley group is reported to be in "exclusive" negotiations with Moores, over a purchase price that's been pegged at $800 million. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has also all but given the deal his blessing

There were some questions about how the deal would be financed, based on problems Peter O'Malley encountered with Korean investors when he entered bidding for the Dodgers earlier this year. But it now appears that the O'Malley bid for the Padres doesn't involve that funding channel.

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San Diego Padres could be sold for $800 million by the All-Star break

San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Starting pitcher Anthony Bass of the San Diego Padres. The team could be nearing a sale for $800 million.

That's what being reported, anyway. CBS Sports says that current owner John Moores has entered an "exclusive negotiating window" to sell the team for about twice its current (depressed) value of $406 million — and a lot more than Moores paid to buy the team in 1994, and to start selling it in 2009.

The sticker price is rumored to be $800 million. If the sale — to a group led by the family of former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, brewing tycoon Ron Fowler, and other investors including pro golfer and San Diego native Phil Mickelson — goes through, it would make the Padres the third costliest Major League Baseball team acquisition, behind the Chicago Cubs $845 and of course the recent Dodgers sale of more than $2 billion.

It would also mean that the two other potential owners — communications mogul Gary Jabara; and private-equity titan Steve Kaplan of Los Angeles' Oaktree Capital — are out of the running. 

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