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Will Major League Baseball re-evaluate Magic Johnson's Dodgers bid?

Annual Harold Pump Foundation Gala Honoring Magic Johnson And Bill Russell

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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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Magic Johnson buys the L.A. Dodgers for $2 billion

Capitol Hill Conference: Future Directions In The Fight Against HIV/AIDS

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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.

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Dodgers sale: And then there were three...

Dodger Stadium Bleachers

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The bleachers stand empty at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.

Let's just call this an update. There were four groups bidding for the Los Angeles Dodgers. That number has been cut to three, as Michael Heisley, owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, has been eliminated.

This leaves:

•Billionaire hedge-fund king Steven Cohen (along with partners Arn Tellem, Tony La Russa, and L.A. billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong) and his essentially all-cash offer, estimated at $1.4-$1.6 billion.

Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten, along with partner Peter Guber, who owns the Golden State Warriors. Their $1.6-billion bid brings far less cash to the table than Cohen's. Instead, it relies on financing through Guggenheim Partners — and it's unclear whether that funding is as stable as it was when Magic & Co. entered the process.

Stan Kroenke, owner of the St. Louis Rams. The Rams are a factor here, as Kroenke might — might — relocate the team to L.A. to support the Farmers Field Downtown NFL stadium project being developed by AEG. He would have to figure out how to convince Major League Baseball that he intends to NOT own both teams in the same market. AP says that Kroenke can match Cohen's funding. I doubt it. Forbes estimates his net worth at $3.2 billion, less than half of Cohen's $8 billion.

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Dodgers sale: Stanley Gold and Disney family back in

Dodger Stadium Bleachers

pvsbond/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

The bleachers stand empty at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.

Yesterday, I blogged about the four remaining bidders for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Well, I blogged too fast, as one of the eliminated groups — investor Stanley Gold of Shamrock Holdings, along with the Disney family — is back in. A committee of Major League Baseball owners vetting the bids kicked them out, but a court-appointed mediator has kicked them back in.

Now five groups altogether will move in to a vote by all the MLB owners. After that, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt will conduct a final auction to choose the winning bid. This process will be concluded by the first week in April, and the money will change hands by April 30.

MLB disqualified another bid, that of real-estate developer Alan Casden, but that decision was upheld by the medaitor, according to the L.A. Times' Bill Shaikin. 

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Dodgers sale: Four bidders remain, Cohen bringing in Tony La Russa, Soon-Shiong

MPR529/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

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).

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