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Baseball owners OK McCourt deal
Boston developer to get LA Dodgers, land for $430m
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 1/30/2004
Major League Baseball team owners yesterday approved the sale of the money-losing Los Angeles Dodgers, along with significant real estate, to South Boston land owner Frank H. McCourt Jr. for about $430 million.
The 30 owners voted by phone after MLB executives had spent 2 1/2 days last week poring over the details of McCourt's heavily leveraged bid. During those last-minute discussions, News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group, which had owned the team for the past five years, agreed to be what McCourt called "a very minor, noncontrolling partner," adding a "tweak" to the original proposal that means the McCourt deal now meets baseball's rules limiting an owner's debt on the team.
News Corp. also is helping McCourt finance the purchase by loaning him more than $100 million, with the South Boston land as collateral. A Bank of America loan, with the Dodgers and its other assets as collateral, rounds out McCourt's purchase package.
McCourt, who has been paid more than $80 million by the Big Dig for use of his South Boston land during highway construction, is also putting down an unspecified amount of cash, according an executive involved in his bid.
Besides its other contributions to the McCourt deal, News Corp. will put $50 million into the team over the next two years to help transform the Dodgers from a money-losing enterprise into a profitable one.
"I just want to say how thrilled we are to be acquiring not only one of the great franchises in baseball but truly one of the best franchises in all of sports," McCourt said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. He declined to outline the details of the deal.
McCourt's 26 acres on the South Boston Waterfront may play a key role in his maintaining control of the Dodgers. The land, with considerable development potential but now used mostly for parking cars, officially went on the market last week. It could bring $100 million to $350 million, according to a Boston real estate executive. A sale could allow McCourt to buy out News Corp.'s continuing investment in the Dodgers and perhaps avoid taking on other partners in the franchise.
The Los Angeles press has been critical of McCourt for being an outsider, a "parking lot baron" who they charged has barely enough money to buy the team and not enough to turn it into a winner.
"We've committed the resources necessary not only to buy this team but to build a world champion," McCourt said yesterday. Although press reports have raised questions about whether McCourt had the money to buy the Dodgers, the total assets he is committing to the team are apparently substantial.
"I would estimate the amount of personal assets Frank McCourt is contributing to the Dodgers acquisition would be larger than that of any other new owner in baseball, with the possible exception of the Red Sox," Dean Bonham, the chairman and chief executive of the Bonham Group of Denver, a sports marketing consulting company, said recently. News Corp. will retain the broadcasting holdings.
McCourt keeps a low profile in Boston and has clashed with City Hall over his South Boston development plans. But, given the media beating he has taken in the three months he's been active in Los Angeles, he will have to change his image if he is to win the hearts of Dodgers fans, said consultant Marc Ganis, president of Sportscorp Ltd. of Chicago.
"It will cause him to have to be more visible in Los Angeles than he otherwise would have been," said Ganis. That and some aggressive team hires like the nearby Anaheim Angels have made will win him friends, Ganis said. McCourt said he and his wife and business partner, Jamie, are purchasing a home in a suburb near Beverly Hills.
Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at email@example.com
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
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