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Magic Johnson says he's bidding for Dodgers

December 2, 2011 |  9:07 am

Magic_600Magic Johnson wants to buy the Dodgers, putting one of Los Angeles' most beloved sports figures in pursuit of the city's cherished baseball team.

Johnson announced his bid in an interview Friday with Times columnist Bill Plaschke.

"I love baseball," Johnson told Plaschke. "I've been a Dodgers fan and gone to the park many, many times."

PHOTOS: Magic Johnson through the years

Johnson would be the face of a high-powered ownership group that would include Stan Kasten, the former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, and Mark Walter, chief executive of Guggenheim Partners, a financial services firm that controls over $125 billion in assets. The firm is headquartered in Chicago and New York, with an office in Los Angeles.

"Stan Kasten is my man," Johnson told Plaschke. "He's a winner, he's built two incredible organizations, and he's well respected. That is what was important to me. I had to get with a winner, a guy who understands baseball inside and out.

"The first thing I asked Walter was, 'Do you want to win, and do you want to put money in?' He said, 'Absolutely.'

"Both guys are about building a winner and making a difference in the L.A. community."

That Johnson has his money lined up puts him, for now, ahead of several potential bidders, including former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley.

Kasten, one of baseball's power brokers, has been rumored as a candidate for commissioner upon the eventual retirement of Bud Selig.

Selig generally controls the sale of a team; he steered Kasten toward the Lerner family before approving the family's purchase of the Nationals. But Kasten's status as a baseball insider might not be as relevant in the Dodgers' sale, in which outgoing owner Frank McCourt-- and not Selig -- will select the winning bidder.

"It's somebody who is a huge baseball fan, who loves this community and is willing to commit to this community and put everything they have into it," McCourt said last month, "and bring a world championship to L.A."

Johnson brought five championships to Los Angeles, marrying sports and entertainment as leader of the "Showtime" Lakers. The three-time NBA Most Valuable Player was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002, by which time he had launched a business empire that has included movie theaters, banks, restaurants and film production.

Johnson, 52, also has invested in -- and sparked public awareness of -- the fight against HIV that prompted him to retire from the NBA in 1991.

His current business partners include Ron Burkle, the Beverly Hills supermarket magnate and co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Burkle has expressed interest in buying the Dodgers and could bid against Johnson.

Other prospective Dodgers bidders include Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Southland baseball executive Dennis Gilbert, Los Angeles developers Rick Caruso and Alan Casden and former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano.

Former Dodgers stars Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser are trying to form a bid group, as is former Dodgers General Manager Fred Claire.

In 2010, Johnson sold his 4.5% ownership share of the Lakers. He is an investor in the Dayton Dragons, a minor league baseball team that has sold out 844 consecutive games, an ongoing record for a professional sports team in the United States.

Times readers recently ranked Johnson as the second-most popular figure in Los Angeles sports history, behind Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax and ahead of Dodgers legend Vin Scully.

If Johnson wins the bidding for the Dodgers, he effectively would become Scully's boss.

-- Bill Shaikin and Bill Plaschke

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Mark Cuban plans to take part in Dodgers bidding process

Photo: Magic Johnson. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel / US Presswire

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