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.
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The bleachers stand empty at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. You can see Frank McCourt's precious parking lots in the background.
Forget that Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, Peter Guber, and Guggenheim Partners — as "Guggenheim Baseball Management" — are buying the L.A. Dodgers for $2 billion. Everyone really wants to know what's going on with Frank McCourt and the massive parking lots!
At L.A. Weekly, David Futch summarizes:
Though many wanted him gone for good, under the sales terms, McCourt will be co-owner of the surrounding lands. In essence, he purchased the Dodger acreage from himself along with his new partner, a still-unnamed affiliate of Guggenheim.
McCourt has dreamed of a major development that could substantially alter the deliberately scruffy, artsy Echo Park vibe. Locals fear that the tin-ear McCourt will champion something along the lines of The Grove in the Fairfax District, an upscale mall that’s anethema to Eastsiders — many of whom make a sport of dumping on cookie-cutter chain stores and Muzak drifting from outdoor speakers shaped like boulders.
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New Dodgers owner? Earvin "Magic" Johnson arrives at the Annual Harold Pump Foundation Gala Honoring Magic Johnson And Bill Russell at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, on August 13, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.
As everyone who cares (i.e, the entire city of Los Angeles) now knows, Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, Peter Guber and financing cohort Guggenheim Partners are buying the L.A. Dodgers for a whopping $2 billion, the highest price ever paid for a pro sports franchise (it blows away the $1.1 billion that the Miami Dolphins went for in 2009).
Somehow, between last week and last night, Magic Johnson and his partners went from reportedly scrambling to raise more cash on their $1.6-billion bid to bringing another $400 million to the table ($550 million, if you count the parking lot deal being done on the side with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt).
The bankruptcy court still needs to review this bid, but what about Major League Baseball? The owners who voted to allow the three bidding groups — Steven Cohen and Stan Kroenke were the other two — to advance to a final auction, conducted by McCourt, have now learned that McCourt and Guggenheim CEO Mark Walter apparently cut a deal with no auction, for substantially more than anticipated.
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Laker great Earvin "Magic" Johnson has won the auction for the L.A. Dodgers. Price? $2 billion.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Magic Johnson and his group, including Stan Kasten and Peter Guber, have won an auction for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Johnson was among three bidders approved by Major League Baseball today.
Price? $2 billion, the largest ever paid for a pro sports franchise.
The losers were hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen, who had joined with L.A. billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong in a bid that many — myself included — thought had too much financial firepower. The other defeated bidder was Stan Kroenke, owner of the St. Louis Rams. This clearly ups the chances that the Rams may become the L.A. Rams relatively soon, to provide the Downtown AEG stadium project with an NFL team.
Magic was the local favorite, so L.A. ultimately got what it (probably) wanted here: a hometown favorite running the show, even if the bulk of the financing came from Guggenheim Partners in Chicago. $2 billion, if the figure is correct, isn't chump change, either. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt stands to make twice what everyone thought he might make, when the bids were in the $1.5-billion ballpark.