Villaraigosa asks baseball to pick local owner for Dodgers
In a letter to Major League Baseball’s top official, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Bud Selig that he strongly believes the next Dodgers owner should be from Los Angeles and should understand how the storied franchise is “deeply woven into the fabric of our great city.”
“Dodger fans and all Angelenos deserve an owner who loves and believes in this city, who understands that the Dodgers and their historic baseball stadium are not just a team; they are a collective community asset,” he wrote to the commissioner. “I understand that Major League Baseball is a business first and the outcome of any auction and final decisions must be fiscally successful for all. However, I urge you to weigh heavily the merits of local ownership.”
The current owner, Frank McCourt, and Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement to auction the team, which is in bankruptcy court and had become a pawn in McCourt’s high-profile divorce from his wife, Jamie, who claimed half-ownership.
Some local businessmen have already talked about acquiring the Dodgers, including former owner Peter O’Malley, who said he plans to put together a new ownership group. O’Malley’s father owned the Dodgers and moved them from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. Ron Burkle, a Southern California supermarket magnate, has also expressed interest in the team.
It's unclear whether Villaraigosa's request will have much sway over Selig and the other team owners who will decide the Dodgers' fate.
Bidders could include Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, who was runner-up when the Texas Rangers were auctioned in bankruptcy court last year. Chicago White Sox executive Dennis Gilbert, the former player agent who also bid on the Rangers, is expected to assemble a group to bid on the Dodgers.
Southern California businessmen Burkle, Alec Gores and Alan Casden also could be in the running. Burkle and Gores have ties to professional sports and Casden pursued the Dodgers before McCourt bought the team. Other potential suitors include Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner, each of whom live in Los Angeles. Former Dodgers stars Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser also have expressed interest in putting together an investment group to bid on the team.
In his letter, Villaraigosa mentioned that he spoke on the phone with Selig Wednesday. The mayor’s office said his letter was mailed on Thursday and faxed on Friday morning.
“Thousands of Angelenos proudly wear Dodger Blue all year long,” the mayor wrote, trying to capture the team’s place in his city. “Come late spring, baseball fans throughout the region make the pilgrimage to iconic Dodger Stadium to watch their prized team. Many fans across the globe eagerly tune in to hear the magical cadence of Vin Scully, whose tenure with the team pre-dates their arrival in Los Angeles.”
The mayor praised the team for its focus and its record this season, but also described its slide under McCourt’s ownership: “Without question, this past season has been very challenging. As a Dodger fan and a native Angeleno, I cannot describe the anguish we all shared after the beating of [San Francisco Giants fan] Bryan Stow in April. The team struggled with low attendance all year and even the Dodger faithful were demoralized by the off-field events that consumed public and media attention.”
After making his pitch for a Los Angeles owner, he said the city was eager to see “the organization returning to trusted hands, filling the stands again at Chavez Ravine and watching the Boys in Blue play ball in a safe, family-friendly atmosphere that has been a time-honored tradition.”
-- John Hoeffel at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, talks with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt before the 2011 season’s opening game with the Giants at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times