Who would’ve thought the Frank McCourt ownership era of the Dodgers would end on an even remotely happy note? I sure didn’t, and I was wrong. In news that broke last night, a group of several businessmen including NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former MLB executive Stan Kasten have agreed to buy the Dodgers. Their out-the-door price? A cool $2 billion.
Let me put that number into perspective for you. Frank McCourt, the current and embattled owner of the Dodgers, paid only $430 million for the franchise in 2004. Since that year, the Dodgers have crossed the 90-win barrier only once (in 2009). They made the playoffs four times, but only made it past the NLDS twice and never made it to the World Series.
In the meantime, McCourt managed to take a surplus of around $50 million in cash after purchasing the Dodgers and turn it into a 579 million-dollar debt. Yet, on that tepid success of his franchise — and less-than-tepid handling of his financials — McCourt stands to turn a profit of over 300% as he sells the team.
As most of you may remember, the bellwether moment in McCourt’s ownership of the Dodgers came during opening day last year when a San Francisco Giants fan, Bryan Stow, was beaten to within an inch of his life shortly after the game in a stadium parking lot. Ironically, partial ownership of the parking lots is the one thing Frank McCourt is clinging onto.
Despite spending the most money EVER to purchase a professional sports team, Frank McCourt will still own half of the parking lots around Chavez Ravine and it is not immediately clear what kind of business partnership will have to be formed there. More than likely, Magic’s ownership group will have to lease that half of the stadium parking lots from McCourt. And no, I don’t know if McCourt still owns the specific plot of asphalt where Bryan Stow was assaulted.
But that should be just a minor blemish on what is otherwise really GOOD news. Think about it: ‘Magic’ Johnson, arguably one of L.A.’s prodigal son’s, now owns one of the most recognizable MLB franchises right there in his fair city.
In case you forgot or are too young to remember (I, for one, was but I also don’t have life and read about such things) Magic Johnson for many years WAS Los Angeles sports. Lakers games had after-parties, and they were more star-studded than a planetarium. During warm-ups, Magic had to rub shoulders with the likes of Jack Nicholson. I can’t even begin to describe how big of a deal Magic is in Los Angeles. And now he owns the Dodgers.
This is a supremely happy ending for Chavez Ravine. It just feels like when the guy gets the girl at the end of a movie. If I were a Dodgers fan, I wouldn’t be thrilled, I would be downright beside myself. I would bet on a new powerhouse coming to the NL West very, very soon.
I mean, let’s not forget the price tag here: two BILLION dollars. These guys have already shown they are not going to be afraid to spend money in the last uncapped major professional sport in our country. And when players like Mike Napoli, B.J. Upton, Josh Hamilton, Matt Cain, and Cole Hamels begin to test the free agency waters next offseason, don’t be surprised if some are lured to L.A.
Los Angeles has always been about big money, big names, and big success. Magic Johnson’s investment group has already brought those first two things back to the Dodgers and I wouldn’t be surprised if the third is quick to follow. For now, though, the Dodgers have spring training to wrap up and a 162-game marathon of a season to begin. They may be outmuscled by the Diamondbacks and arch-rival Giants this year, but it might be time to put those teams on notice. There is Magic back in Los Angeles professional sports and that almost always means brighter days are ahead.
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