By Tim Arrick
Guggenheim Baseball Partners LLC is the official name of the group whose bid was approved by the Dodgers to purchase the team for a record $2 Billion but by far the most recognizable name in the group is one Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
While the sale of the team still needs Major League Baseball’s final approval, Commissioner Bud Selig was quoted as saying “It is extraordinarily exciting for Major League Baseball that Magic Johnson, a beloved figure in Los Angeles and around the world, has entered into an agreement, along with Guggenheim CEO Mark Walter and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten, that would make them a part of our national pastime,”
In addition to MLB’s approval, the sale of the Dodgers would also need to be approved by the bankruptcy court in Deleware. Through the sale, the creditors would be paid back all of the nearly $600 Million that is owed to them. This total includes the $150 Million that was loaned to the Dodgers by Major League Baseball.
The hearing to approve the sale of the storied franchise is set for April 13th with the final ownership transfer scheduled for May 1, 2012.
While it isn’t clear yet at this point, the stake that Magic will hold in the Dodgers, this isn’t his first foray into professional sports ownership. It was rumored prior to the purchase of the Detroit Pistons by Tom Gores that Magic was working on becoming a minority owner in a bid for that franchise.
Speculation was fueled in 2010 after Magic sold off his 4.5% stake in the L.A. Lakers and then turned around the next day and sold 105 of his Starbuck’s Franchises back to the company. The combined value of the two sales was in the $100 Million range. A spokesman for Johnson at the time stated that the sales were for business reasons only but that acquiring something “in sports” may be a possibility in the future.
While the day to day operation of the team will most likely be run by former Washington Nationals baseball team president Stan Kasten, expect Magic to be an integral member of the team.
“I love baseball,” Johnson said. “I’ve been to many not just Dodger games, but baseball games around the country. I grew up a [Detroit] Tiger fan, of course, being from Michigan, and then became a Dodger fan when I moved to L.A. over 30 years ago.
Based on the initial response in L.A. Magic’s ownership will be a welcome event after the trials of the McCourt Family.”The support has been overwhelming,” Johnson said. “The Dodgers, it’s not that they need to be fixed, we need to just take them to the next level. People love this brand, they love the team, they love going to Dodger Stadium to watch a game. We just need to take them to the next level.”
According to Kasten, it won’t be a total overhaul of the team when Guggenheim takes over on May 1. “As of today, I have no plans to do that,” he said. “We’re going in there April 30 or May 1 and we want to learn everybody, we want to see how everyone is doing, see how I can contribute to them, make them more productive.”
That statement certainly made current General Manager Ned Colletti feel more confident. Colletti was quoted as saying “We’re thrilled that the bidding process has concluded and certainly looking forward to working with the new ownership group to bring another World Series championship to L.A. I think it’s tremendous for the city and the fans of the Dodgers.”
In the end, it seems fitting that Johnson, who lead his Michigan State Spartans to an NCAA championship and helped the L.A. Lakers acquire five NBA Titles during his tenure as a player there should become the first African American owner of the franchise that helped to integrate baseball to begin with.