Meet the Dodgers' new ownership team. Who do you think that tall guy in the XXXL jersey in the middle bearing number 12 is?
The new Dodgers owners are in the middle of a Vin Scully-emceed press conference on a gray and rainy day at Dodger Stadium (let's hope the old wedding adage about bad weather is proven true in this new betrothal). Magic Johnson provided the rousing message about making the team back into winners, living up to the legacy of the great players of the past.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the usual politician things.
Interestingly, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig didn't make it to centerfield.
Stan Kasten, the veteran baseball pro who'll be running Dodger operations, quipped that "he'd been under a gag order" for six months, then highlighted the "TLC" that Dodger Stadium, turning 50 this year, needs. He spoke of "enhancements," of bringing the experience "into the 21st century." Given the fan exodus that the Dodgers saw over the past few years, and given that the stadium is no longer thought of as a safe place to see a game, Kasten pressed home a message about serving the team's loyalists. He even rolled out an email suggestion box: email@example.com. And if that sounds kind of old school, he also nodded toward social media.
It doesn't say Time Warner Cable.
I caught wind of some rumors about a week ago that the Dodgers' new owners, Guggenheim Baseball Partners, led by Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter, might have done a sort of pre-deal with...somebody for the team's future broadcast rights. It appears that the rumor was just that. Here's Bill Shaikin from the L.A. Times (note than Fox has the current broadcast deal):
Under its settlement with the Dodgers, Fox had the right to challenge any sale in which rival Time Warner Cable was involved. The Dodgers already had told the court that TWC was not involved, but Fox asked for assurances from the new owners.
According to Thursday's filing, the new owners would state for the court record that TWC is not directly or indirectly funding the purchase of the Dodgers and that no "formal or informal agreements have been reached with TWC to telecast [Dodgers] games for the 2014 MLB season or beyond." U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross would then include that language in his order approving the sale.
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Andre Ethier #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers greets his teammates after being introduced on Opening Day prior to playing the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on March 31, 2011.
Welcome to your 2012 Dodgers home opener revenue projection!
Since 2009, the Los Angeles Dodgers have seen their yearly revenues fall into a death spiral, culminating in Frank McCourt's decision to put the team into bankruptcy and — just a few weeks back — sell it to Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, and a group of investors headed by Guggenheim Partners' CEO Mark Walter. The numbers are rough: $286 million in 2009 down to $230 million (estimated) in 2011. That slide happened against the backdrop of more than $500 million in debt, now due to be discharged by the sale of the team and assumed by the new owners.
Oh, and Dodger Stadium needs to be fixed up. That will cost at least $200 million.
Last year, the L.A. Times broke down the revenues:
[T]icket receipts of $107.2 million were the largest contributor (37.5%) to the Dodgers' $286 million in total revenue that year.
The second-biggest contributor was $42.6 million from MLB funds that the teams divide, such as from national television broadcasts and MLB.com. That was followed by local broadcasting revenue ($41.5 million), advertising promotions ($27 million), concessions ($25.5 million), suite rentals ($20 million) and parking ($11 million).
Is this whole thing just a toy for some rich men playing with other people's money?
I'm glad that some really big questions about the Dodgers deal are finally being asked by one of the biggest names in financial journalism. Andrew Ross Sorkin, in his DealBook column at the New York Times, admits that for the past few weeks, he's been "puzzled" by the terms of the sale, with Guggenheim Baseball Partners — Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, Peter Guber, and Guggenheim Partners — shelling out $2.15 billion for the team, a record price.
The winning bid was led by Mark Walter and his firm, Guggenheim Partners, which most people in sports — and frankly, even on Wall Street — know very little about. (Peter Guber, the film producer behind “Rain Man” as well as Stan Kasten, the former president of the Atlanta Braves, are also involved.)
A quick background check and some back-of-the-envelope math raises an obvious red flag: how on earth can this group of individuals afford to pay $2 billion in cash?
The answer is that they probably can’t — at least, not by themselves.
Mr. Walter, along with his colleague Todd Boehly, Guggenheim’s president, appear to be living out a childhood fantasy using other people’s money, some of whom may not even realize it.
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SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 5 : Magic Johnson (L) sits with Frank McCourt during the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres in the home opener at Petco Park on April 5, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
The Dodgers and the organization's creditors began filing documents with the bankruptcy court in Delaware that's overseeing the team's sale. We didn't learn a whole lot beyond the known value of the deal: $2.15 billion, consisting of a cash offer, the assumption of the team's existing debt, and a side deal with outgoing owner Frank McCourt for the real estate around the stadium, currently blanketed with parking lots.
What we want to know is where the money that Guggenheim Baseball Management (GBM) — the entity that consists of Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, Peter Guber, and financier Mark Walter of Guggenheim Partners — has brought to the deal is coming from. Remember, the final sale was conducted preemptively, without the anticipated auction that McCourt was going to conduct among the three final bidders. And the final sale price came in over half a billion higher than the initial bid than Major League Baseball approved from Guggenheim.