From L to R: Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Stan Kasten and Peter Guber, three of the four front men in Guggenheim Baseball Partners, the group that placed the winning bid for the L.A. Dodgers.
Twenty years ago this summer, Magic Johnson played on the original "Dream Team" that won the basketball gold medal at the Olympic Games in Barcelona. Now he’s the face of another dream team: the new owners of the Dodgers.
As a Los Angeles Lakers legend and successful businessman, Magic Johnson’s got plenty of money, but probably not nearly as much as his new teammates at Guggenheim Baseball Management. That’s the name of the group that’s agreed to buy the Dodgers for $2 billion. With Johnson as the front man in this record-breaking deal, the real winner could be Major League Baseball.
"They’ve been losing African-American fans, you know. Young black kids have not been playing baseball. They’ve been playing basketball and football," ESPN Magazine's Molly Knight told KPCC's Madeleine Brand on Wednesday.
According to Knight, the Dodger's sale couldn't have gone better.
"This is just an amazing coup for them to be able to install Magic Johnson, who is one of the most loved and respected and successful leaders of the black community in sports. This is a no-brainer for them," she continued.
Knight added that baseball also has a lot of love for the man who’ll likely run the team: Stan Kasten. That love goes back nearly three decades, when Kasten started as president of the Atlanta Braves and began impressing current baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who was then owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.
"Selig loves the guy. This is a huge, huge win for baseball," she said.
Film producer Peter Guber brings another kind of “showtime” to the team. He heads Mandalay Entertainment Group, which makes movies but also owns minor league baseball teams and counts Magic Johnson as an investor.
Then there’s the man with most of the money: Mark Walter. The chief executive of investment firm Guggenheim Partners, will be the controlling partner of the Dodgers.
This dream team’s bid essentially stopped the private auction for the Dodgers before it really started in public. It offered current owner Frank McCourt a record sum to leave Dodger Stadium, but he can still hang out in the parking lots.
"It’s not just parking lots for the sake of parking cars," said USC Sports Business Institute head David Carter. "It’s converting some of that to the ability to develop it for even more lucrative real estate."
According to Carter, giving McCourt the opportunity to maintain some of the parking real estate was a critical part of the winning team's bid.
The official Dodgers statement is tricky on this score. It says McCourt and certain affiliates will form a joint venture, which will acquire the parking lots property for an additional $150 million. So Dodger fans who wanted Frank McCourt gone will have to decide if the parking lot is far enough away.