Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
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Category: Dodger Stadium

Frank McCourt to Bud Selig: I can never thank you enough


I don’t know what the world record is for emerging from bankruptcy with the greatest amount of wealth, but you have to think our good buddy Frank McCourt is a serious contender.

Bankruptcy is designed to make sure creditors are paid, and you have to wonder at this point if there was ever any danger of that not happening. But McCourt chose bankruptcy, the courts accepted and it has led to a historic auction, the likes of which Sotheby’s has never imagined.

Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan finds it incomprehensible that after leaving the Dodgers the laughingstock of baseball and dragging them into bankruptcy, McCourt could not only get the record $1.5 billion he was looking for, but possibly $2 billion and still own the parking lots.

The Times’ Bill Shaikin reports that, aside from TV rights, team revenue and the parking lots, whether the sale price is ultimately closer to $1.5 or $2 billion could largely depend on how much renovation Dodger Stadium is deemed to need.

McCourt now claims it doesn’t need significant renovation, which sort of goes against his grand 2008 plan for a transformation that was estimated then to cost $500 million. And, oh yeah, was supposed to be completed before the start of the 2012 season.

In a stunning development, McCourt found financing a tad difficult to come by.

Yet despite everything, despite the embarrassment of bankruptcy, an ugly public divorce that exposed his and wife Jamie's horrendous greed and perhaps the worst year in team history, McCourt is about to exit richer than anyone –- no doubt including him -- ever dreamed.

The McCourts purchased the Dodgers for $430 million in 2004 without spending a dime of their own money, using equity in a Boston parking lot. Now even after paying Jamie a settlement of $131 million once the team sells, paying off $573 million in debt and possibly more than $200 million in sales taxes, McCourt could walk away with around $1 billion?

Wonder if Jamie would like to rework that settlement.

No one has any real clue which of the 11 surviving bidders will get the team, though if it does become more of a vanity purchase than a practical one, the deep pockets of Steve Cohen and Magic Johnson’s group are impressive. Newhan said the Joe Torre-Rick Caruso group has picked up the backing of a member of the David Thomson family, the wealthiest in Canada. Groups could yet merge, and still floating out there are local billionaires Ron Burkle and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

No one knows this better than Frank McCourt. His feud with Commissioner Bud Selig is looking like the best thing that ever happened to him.

__ __ __

Newhan also had this interesting mention in his blog post:

“… sources also revealed that none of the investors are particularly happy with the Dodgers' eight year, $160 million, back loaded signing of Matt Kemp, and the two year, $19 million contract to Clayton Kershaw.”

Jon Weisman at Dodgers Thoughts found this particularly unsettling, arguing the Dodgers were simply giving competitive salaries to their two best players.

Which is true, of course, but if you’re about to be the new owner, no doubt you would like to be the one negotiating the salaries. It is your future debt, and neither contract had to be done now.

Kemp’s salary, compared to subsequent deals signed by Albert Pujols ($240 million) and Prince Fielder ($214 million), could prove a relative bargain if he continues to produce anywhere near his 2011 level.

Of course, the difference is Pujols and Fielder have performed at the highest level for several years. Kemp reached true elite status only last year, and the Dodgers are counting on the 2011 version and not the 2010 one.

Kershaw’s deal is another matter. Two is an unusual number of years to give a player in the first year of arbitration. The Dodgers guaranteed him $6 million this season, meaning he gets $13 million next year. For that, they essentially got nothing in return, save for avoiding a year of arbitration.

So the Dodgers have taken an expensive gamble that Kershaw doesn’t blow out his elbow. Normally if a team does make that kind of commitment, the contract is extended to at least buy out a year or two of free agency.


Profit at Dodgers' spring home drops 65% in two years

What is the Dodgers' backup plan if Dee Gordon falters?

Fan loyalty to Dodgers took a tumble in 2011, survey says

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Commissioner Bud Selig with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt during a ceremony in 2006. Credit: Ric Francis / Associated Press

One last ghastly nightmare of Dodgers and Frank McCourt

Stan1And now to scare the living bejeebies out of you …

One of the more interesting names to surface this week out of the group that has submitted bids for the Dodgers is Stan Kroenke.

That would be the Kroenke who owns the NFL’s St. Louis Rams. The Kroenke who also owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, the MLS’ Colorado Rapids and is the largest shareholder of the  Premier League soccer team Arsenal. Also, it should be noted he started his own regional sports network for his teams in Denver.

Now, I’m just playing devil’s advocate here because, you know, it’s so much fun. But what if Kroenke doesn’t want to just buy the Dodgers, but to follow up on the proposal first suggested by Peter O’Malley and later picked up briefly by Frank McCourt, and also build an NFL stadium in the Dodger Stadium parking lot?

And bring the Rams back to Los Angeles.

Kroenke’s Rams have an opt-out in the stadium lease at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis after the 2014 season.

The Rams return, USC’s Jeff Fisher is back as head coach, the Embraceable Ewes live again!

Continue reading »

Strong winds leave even Dodgers feeling blue

The winds have swept down hard on the Dodgers, and I’m not talking about the crosstown rival Angels landing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.

The winds that have ravaged Southern California recently left their mark on the Dodgers too.

The "Think Blue" sign in the hills beyond the center field parking lot that faces Dodger Stadium was hit hard by the strong winds, knocking down its first two letters and half the "U" in blue.

Now the sign looks as if it says "Ink Bue," which I don’t think is any indication that they’re about to sign some mystery player or have a new partnership with the British University of Egypt. Times staffer Blake Hennon captured a picture of the new-look sign during a recent visit to the stadium.

"Think Blue" sign damaged by winds

The "Think Blue" sign was designed along the lines of the Hollywood sign on Mt. Lee and was originally used during the O’Malley era in a "Think Blue Week" promotion. Later, it was decided to leave the sign up year-round.

A Dodgers spokesman said the team does plan to repair the sign.


Dodgers announce signing of Aaron Harang

Dodgers trade pitcher Dana Eveland to Orioles

Fox contract restricts Dodgers from launching regional sports network

— Steve Dilbeck

Sandy Koufax mini-statue? His bobblehead leads 2012 promos


Frank McCourt may be on his way out –- he is, isn’t he? –- but his marketing department remains in full swing.

The Dodgers have announced their promotional schedule for 2012, and it’s jammed with enough fleeces, specialty caps and replica jerseys to keep your local 98-cent store rolling all season.

The granddaddy of baseball giveaways, of course, is the bobblehead, which naturally, the Dodgers have noticed. Noticed to the tune of a record 10 bobblehead games this season.

Only this year, as a link to the team’s 50th anniversary season at Dodger Stadium in their 51st year at Dodger Stadium, instead of Don Mattingly and Andre Ethier bobbleheads, they are going with what they’re calling the Dodger Stadium Greats Bobblehead series.

And the only one they’re announcing up front is Sandy Koufax's.

They’re going to "unveil" the rest leading up to the season opener. And, yes, the 10 bobblehead days will be available with their own ticket mini-plan. How did McCourt drive this team into bankruptcy again?

Cashing in on Koufax is what you might call smart business. This comes on the heels of Koufax winning The Times’ poll as the greatest sports figure in Los Angeles history earlier this month. Couldn’t you just see the light bulbs going off in the Dodgers’ marketing department?

Who the rest will be -– or should be -– makes for some fun speculation. The anonymous Steve Sax of the Sons of Steve Garvey blog is already stumped:

"So let me count here: Frank McCourt, Jamie McCourt, Drew McCourt, Steven Soboroff, Howard Sunkin, ... hmm, I've still got five more 'greats' to select.’’

Fireworks Fridays also return (all 13 of them) and a couple of $1 Dodger Dog days, and on it goes. Click here for the full promotional list.

Of course, wrapping it all around Koufax is pretty smart marketing. As The Times’ Bill Shaikin tweeted, and the Register's Howard Cole and numerous others have championed, what would be really great is a statue of Koufax in front of Dodger Stadium.

For now, you can reserve a Koufax bobblehead. Now available in that 10-game mini-plan.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Sandy Koufax, left, shared a laugh with Don Drysdale in 1965. Credit: Associated Press.

Dodgers' Matt Kemp signs historic $160-million contract


It's official: Matt Kemp on Friday inked an eight-year, $160-million contract extension with the Dodgers --  the largest deal in National League history.

Wearing a natty gray suit and bow tie, the centerfielder and Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti signed their names to the new contract at a ceremony at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, Kemp's parents and Kemp's agent Dave Stewart were among those in attendance.

"This is very special for me," Kemp told the gathering. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity. Another eight years in L.A., that sounds great."

McCourt, who has agreed to sell the team that's now in bankruptcy reorganization, stood at the podium, turned to Kemp sitting behind him and said, "I just want to tell you I'm proud of you. I'll be watching your progress very, very closely."

Kemp's contract averages $20 million per season, but the Dodgers will pay him only half of that next season -- $10 million, of which $2 million is deferred.

But the contract also has a $2-million signing bonus that will be paid to Kemp next April, so Kemp's income next season effectively will be $10 million, Stewart said. Kemp will receive the deferred $2 million in 2013, Stewart said.

The new contract does not include a no-trade clause, Kemp and Colletti said.

The arrangement gives the Dodgers some financial leeway to sign free agents or otherwise acquire players this off-season who could help improve the club, and Kemp agreed to it because "Matt wanted to give them the flexibility," Stewart said.

Kemp is in contention to win the NL's Most Valuable Player award, to be announced next week, after a season in which he batted .324 with 39 home runs, 126 runs batted in and 40 stolen bases.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: Matt Kemp signs his eight-year contract extension as Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti watches Friday at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire

Taking a really hard look at Dodgers' potential buyers

Owners_600Really, the celebration should last a while. Be so giddy it borders on obnoxious. Battle that hallelujah hangover.

Only, it’s hard to think about Frank McCourt packing up without thinking of who’s moving in. Yeah, I’m way early on this one, but then Major League Baseball did talk about having a new owner in place by opening day. Pretty ambitious, but it indicates things will move quickly.

Plenty have been mentioned as possible buyers of the Dodgers over the last year, but it will be interesting to see who now steps forward when it actually matters.

FULL COVERAGE: Dodgers sale

Forbes estimates the team is worth $800 million, though filings by McCourt claim the team is worth more than a billion. Chump change for those of us with team pockets.

Here’s an overview of potential buyers:

-- The Dilbeck Investment Group: The people’s favorite. To my 2006 Accord, two banana-yellow refurbished Schwinn 10-speeds and my mother’s reverse mortgage, add my kids’ booming lemonade stand and I don’t see how we’re stopped.

-- Steve Garvey: Yeah, he has an investment group too. Never has said who’s actually in it, other than Orel Hershiser. Garvey was fired by McCourt for continually talking about buying the team while in the employ of McCourt. I’m thinking not.

-- Larry King: A Dodgers fan from his Brooklyn days. Thinking he knows enough people. Also, I understand he has some free time on his hands these days.

-- Mark Cuban: Owner of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks and a bunch of Internet-type companies I don’t understand. I do understand he’s now a proven winner. He’s also controversial, so you have to wonder if Commissioner Bud Selig would ever approve him. Said he's not going to pay $1.2 billion.

-- Dennis Gilbert: Once the king for sports agents, now a White Sox executive and big-time insurance salesman. A Los Angeles native and former minor league player, he’s a major Dodgers fan. He’s the guy sitting right behind home plate every game. Doesn’t own an Accord, though.

-- Ron Burkle: I’m always partial to former box boys. He has the moola, is part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins and is also a Southern California native, but he’s more private than Garbo, and we already have a guy like that who owns the Kings. Apparently not with Garvey group.

-- Eli Broad: He could add some nifty art around Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are a civic treasure. History, however, says he won’t feign any interest until it’s too late.

-- Time Warner: As The Times’ Bill Shaikin noted, why spend more than $3 billion for media rights when the team can be had for a fraction of that? Although if memory serves, the Dodgers have already been down this cable-ownership road.

-- Alan Casden: The apartment developer was briefly a player back in 2003. Wanted to raze Dodger Stadium and build a new ballpark near Staples Center. Something about that idea appealed to Tim Leiweke.

-- Alec Gores: Made his fortune in leveraged buyouts. Has not been seen at Occupy L.A. His brother owns the Detroit Pistons.

-- Current MLB owners Mark Attanasio (Brewers) and Tom Werner (Red Sox), who both live in L.A. Would require some kind of franchise swap. Think Carroll Rosenbloom and the Rams, hopefully minus the ocean swim.

-- Chinese mafia: No, not really. Anyway, I don’t think so. There was an unsolicited bid with Chinese financing back in September that supposedly offered McCourt $1.2 billion. Thinking he likes that number.

-- Peter O’Malley: For the nostalgic out there. Called for McCourt to sell the team more than a year ago. Said he wasn’t interested in returning as owner, but then he sold them for only $311 million in 1998. Would probably need a cash supplement from the Dilbeck Investment Group.


Do you want Mark Cuban to buy the Dodgers? [Poll]

Would Fox Sports or Time Warner consider bidding on Dodgers?

Mayor Villaraigosa says new Dodgers owner should be from Los Angeles

-- Steve Dilbeck

Left photo: Larry King. Credit: Emilio Flores / Getty Images

Center photo: Mark Cuban. Credit: David Santiago / MCT

Right photo: Steve Garvey: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Frank McCourt attorney says Bryan Stow shares blame for attack

Frank McCourt has had more public-relations specialists over the years than Derek Jeter has had hot girlfriends. If politicians had image-makers like McCourt's, there would be no one left to run for public office. Wait ...

Even now, McCourt has so many people speaking for him that I'm never sure which one to call for his "no comment."

To be fair, the Bryan Stow beating case is difficult, treacherous ground to navigate. McCourt needs to appear sympathetic without sounding guilty of any wrongdoing.

Here's my basic PR rule for McCourt: If a lawyer is speaking for you, you're in trouble. You're not out in front of the message. You're taking a chance that someone else will craft it as you desire, and history indicates the odds are not favorable.

Now McCourt has countersued in the Stow case, filing a civil complaint last week against two men -- Marvin Norwood and Louie Sanchez -- who have been charged in connection with the attack. McCourt claims they should be held liable for the beating, not himself and the Dodgers.

Stow's family has sued McCourt and the Dodgers over a beating that took place in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day. But McCourt is suing two suspects who have not been found guilty of anything?

Continue reading »

Dodgers try lowering season-ticket prices to lure fans back

Desperate times call for whatever-you-can-pull-out-of-your-fanny measures. And pretty sure tickets sold at Dodger Stadium falling 627,181 last season qualifies as a desperate time.

Sort of like the team declaring bankruptcy, ownership being in chaos, the team finishing in third place, no-shows skyrocketing and no one having a real clue what’s going to happen in the off-season.

Who wouldn’t line up at the ticket window?

The Dodgers' solution -- lowering ticket prices and throwing a couple of bones to season-ticket holders.

Of course, season-ticket holders have been trying to convince Judge Kevin Gross they should get a place at the bankruptcy table, upset that seats next to them are being sold at slashed prices.

And then of course, there are the tickets available at online marketplaces that are selling for a buck or two.

The Dodgers' immediate response is to offer 2012 season tickets at reduced rates for what they say will be 96% of their seats. The Dodgers said over 35,000 seats will be available at $20 or less for season tickets.

Continue reading »

Gloves are off: Now imagine baseball without the Dodgers

When the gloves come off, the blows tend to get your attention. As soon as Frank McCourt gets those steaks off his eyes, let’s hope he can finally see how hopeless his situation is.

Not that he has any history to suggest he will.

But on Friday, Major League Baseball did away with the feints and jabs and the fancy footwork and just delivered a blow from the ankles. Pretense is no longer invited.

The Times’ Bill Shaikin wrote that MLB asked the bankruptcy court in a filing to order the team sold, said it would never approve any media rights deal that would enable McCourt to maintain team ownership and that such a sale could result in MLB discipline that could include the team's suspension from the league.

"No one will pay the [Dodgers] to broadcast Dodgers games if the club is not part of Major League Baseball," the filing reads. "Consequently, the [Dodgers'] path in this case is a dead end or worse."

Silly, right? Come on, that would be like the NFL playing the last 17 years without a team in Los Angeles.

Continue reading »

Dodger Stadium half empty, and just wait until next year

Empty_640 Every bit of news that creeps out about the Dodgers' attendance is worse than the last, and yet somehow you know it’s still worse.

Now Milton Arenson, president of FMI, the company that handles merchandise sales for the team, has testified that Dodger Stadium’s actual turnstile attendance is projected to be 2.2 million to 2.3 million this season.

Meaning the Dodgers are playing in half an empty stadium, which anyone with two functioning retinas could decipher at any game. The good news: You can hurl insults at Juan Uribe and he can actually hear you. I mean, if he ever gets back in a game.

Not all the half-price food Wednesdays, firework Fridays, $5 box seats and bobblehead specials are enough to lure people to Dodger Stadium as before.

Fans are ticked, they’re boycotting without even being organized. They’re simply fed up with the McCourts. And they’re not coming back until the McCourts are gone.

Continue reading »

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