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MLB skeptical of $1.2-billion Dodgers bid

September 1, 2011 |  3:58 pm

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The proposed $1.2 billion bid for the Dodgers was received with skepticism within Major League Baseball, where executives wondered whether the proposal might be used by owner Frank McCourt to stir negotiations with other potential buyers or to persuade a  Bankruptcy Court judge to keep McCourt in charge of the team.

"There are questions within the sports industry about whether this is a genuine offer," said one industry consultant who works extensively with MLB and other professional sports leagues.

The bid is headed by Los Angeles Marathon founder Bill Burke and backed in part by Chinese investors, according to a letter sent to McCourt on Tuesday. Burke declined to comment, as did a spokesman for McCourt and the chief executive of the investment firm that sent the letter on Burke's behalf.

McCourt has spoken with at least two other groups about a sale of some portion of the Dodgers, said a person familiar with the discussions but not authorized to discuss them publicly. McCourt could use the $1.2 billion as a minimum value for the Dodgers in those discussions. Forbes magazine estimates the Dodgers' worth at $800 million.

McCourt also could cite the offer in Bankruptcy Court, according to the industry consultant, to counter MLB claims that he has irreparably mismanaged the team. The $1.2 billion would represent almost half again the previous record sale price for a major league franchise.

"It's almost a double-edged sword," said Thomas Salerno, who represented the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes in their bankruptcy proceedings. "On the one hand, the offer certainly demonstrates the value of the asset in bankruptcy."

On the other hand, Salerno said, the court could consider the offer as evidence that multiple buyers might bid for the Dodgers in an auction, with the possibility that the team might best emerge from bankruptcy under stronger financial ownership.

The industry skepticism stems in part from McCourt's previous overtures to Chinese investors. In 2009, he solicited $150 million from Chinese investors, in exchange for a stake in an international sports venture that he would run. The entity would have included the Dodgers and a Beijing soccer club -- and, later, an English Premier League team -- but McCourt was unable to secure the funding, according to documents filed in the divorce of McCourt and his ex-wife Jamie McCourt.

The industry consultant said the McCourts had told him of aspirations to build a global sports empire, believing Los Angeles was perfectly positioned as a gateway to Asia. The McCourts had talked of starting with the Dodgers and the Los Angeles Marathon and, the consultant said, using Chinese investment money to buy an NFL team to play in a stadium to be built in the Dodger Stadium parking lot.

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-- Bill Shaikin

Photo: Dodgers owner Frank McCourt walks past the team dugout prior to a game in 2010. Credit: Danny Moloshok / Associated Press

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