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Hedging your bets on the next Dodgers owner

December 28, 2011 |  3:13 pm

Cohen3Forecasting how this might ultimately play out is a risky endeavor, which is something Steven Cohen is at least historically familiar.

Cohen is the East Coast hedge fund titan identified by The Times’ Bill Shaikin as bidding on the Dodgers. A hedge fund is a somewhat murky concept to most people, but then it’s not intended for most people, at least not directly. It’s intended for pension funds and foundations and that infamous 1%.  The kind of people who want to call and speak to the fund manager directly.

Cohen, 55, has proved so adept at this financial wizardry that Forbes has estimated his net worth at $8.3 billion. That makes him the 35th richest man in America, or four spots ahead of Phil Anschutz.

Which immediately would give him one huge advantage over the current non-local owner, Frank McCourt. Cohen is stupid rich.

He also has the backing of two local billionaires, who just happen to share his passion as an art collector and for their obscene prices:  David Geffen and Eli Broad. Geffen reportedly has sold three art pieces to Cohen valued at more than $250 million. Feels like an uncomfortably elitist, almost incestuous club.

The backing also makes it sound like Broad won’t be joining Peter O’Malley or anyone else’s ownership bid, which would be disappointing to many.

Cohen refused to comment for Shaikin’s article, but then if he were to become the Dodgers’ new owner, that’s something we might have to become familiar with. When he gave an interview to Vanity Fair last year, the magazine boasted it was only the second interview of his 33 years on Wall Street. Almost makes the secretive Anschutz sound loquacious.

But it’s not that he made his fortune investing other people’s money, or that he lives in Connecticut, or has no baseball background or never speaks publicly that could prove to be his largest obstacle in getting approved by Major League Baseball. It’s the constant rumors of insider trading that have circled Cohen and the company he founded, SAC Capitol Advisors, which controls $14 billion in assets.

In testimony this year obtained this month by Reuters from a civil lawsuit against SAC, Cohen called the rules on insider trading "very vague" and sometimes a "judgment" call. Hardly sounds like it would immediately endear him to MLB, still mired in the Mets and Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal.

There may not be a perfect candidate for the next Dodgers’ owner: someone with O’Malley’s legacy, Broad’s wealth, Dennis Gilbert’s passion, Magic Johnson’s popularity.

But when someone has the kind of financial means of Cohen, he best be taken seriously, perfect or not. And Cohen appears to be taking the Dodgers very seriously.


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Photo: Billionaire hedge-fund executive Steven Cohen. Credit: Ronda Churchill / Bloomberg via Getty Images