September 01, 2011
The Los Angeles Dodgers must have some wealthy fans in the People's Republic of China.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday that troubled team owner Frank McCourt received an offer via letter this week to sell the Dodgers for $1.2 billion in a bid partly funded by Chinese investors.
Communists?! Running the Dodgers?! No, just investing. Although, it might make the big-market team more sympathetic to revenue sharing (wink-wink).
Foreign investment is rare, but isn't new in Major League Baseball; a group from Japan owns a stake in the Seattle Mariners. But the U.S.'s relationship with China is a little different.
Regardless of being unable to get an image of Mao out of your head, the lead bidder would be Bill Burke, who founded the L.A. Marathon (and sold it to McCourt). His group wants the team, all media rights, including Vin Scully, plus Dodger Stadium and all of its parking lots.
Bill Shaikin writes:
The letter did not specify who would finance the Burke bid, other than to say the money would come from "certain state-owned investment institutions of the People's Republic of China" as well as unidentified American investors.
But the men from China might not even be the issue here. Does McCourt even want to sell his beloved parking lots, along with the rest of the Dodgers? Considering how financially leveraged he's become — with the club filing for bankruptcy and all — selling the Dodgers for that much cash money might be the only way to get himself out of debt. Not to mention the "side skirmishes" he'd like settled, such as his divorce from Jamie McCourt, and tangling with the season ticket-holding descendents of Frank Sinatra.
Are the Dodgers even worth that much? Is any team — other than maybe the New York Yankees?
Well, if someone is willing to pay ...
The record sale price for a major league franchise is $845 million, set two years ago when the Ricketts family bought the Chicago Cubs from Tribune Co., publisher of The Times.
That deal included the team, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in a cable sports channel. The Burke group proposes paying almost half again as much for the Dodgers, their stadium and a chance to start a cable sports channel or negotiate a new cable television contact.
Forbes magazine last March estimated the Dodgers' value at $800 million. The team could be worth from $900 million to $1.1 billion, according to Marc Ganis, president of Sportscorp Ltd, a Chicago-based sports industry consulting firm.
Sounds like the Chinese are trying to make McCourt an offer he can't refuse. Commissioner Bud Selig wants McCourt out — but would he take ol' Red China as a business partner as a means to an end? What would Richard Nixon do?
Bud, don't just stand there and shrug!
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