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Dodgers sale: At shop once owned by Magic Johnson, fans pleased

March 28, 2012 | 10:31 am

Magic Johnson at Lakers parade
At a Ladera Heights Starbucks once owned by Magic Johnson, people sipped coffee Wednesday and talked about the announcement that Johnson's group had acquired the Dodgers.

For the men sitting at an outdoor table, Johnson's role in buying the Dodgers was like icing on the cake in a long list of business deals the Lakers legend has been involved in that have benefited Los Angeles.

Johnson's presence is strong in this part of town. The coffee shop, which opened in the late 1990s, was the first Starbucks opened by Johnson and a team of investors who sought to bring the franchise to communities often overlooked by investors.

Photos: Magic Johnson through the years

He sold his interest in the shops in 2010, but up until a few months ago, there was still a mural of Johnson on the wall inside. There is a TGI Friday's dubbed Magic Johnson's Friday's next door.

Johnson and a group of investors will be the new owners of the Dodgers after paying a record $2 billion. He is joined by longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten, movie executive Peter Guber and Mark Walter, chief executive officer of a Chicago financial services company. The deal must be approved next month.

Over in downtown L.A., Neil Gutierrez, 37, a receptionist at Homeboy Industries and former gang member from the San Fernando Valley, decided to wear his blue and gray Dodgers jacket Wednesday to celebrate Johnson’s involvement in the Dodgers' sale.

“Everyone’s excited about this. Just on the way here I spoke to three or four people about it,” Gutierrez said. “That’s why I wore this jacket. I hadn’t worn it in a month. It was about time.”

Photos: Great moments in Dodgers history

He said he was a fan of the Dodgers since the 1980s. Gutierrez said he thought the team became more about making money in recent years. “Fernando, Steve Garvey, Sax. Those are the Dodgers that I remember,” Gutierrez said. “Magic’s a businessman. He knows L.A. He knows what the fans like. He can’t go wrong. He’ll give the fans what they want. I’m sure he can bring it.”

Another Homeboy Industries employee, Frank Gutierrez, no relation to Neil Gutierrez, said his 15 years at Corcoran State Prison from 1996 to last year nearly corresponded with the Dodgers’ decline as a great, championship winning team.

But that didn’t stop him from listening to his team’s games, sometimes twirling his portable radio to get the best reception.

“I was in prison most of that time but I stuck with them," he said. "They were my way of getting closer to home. It was painful though.”

Gutierrez, 42, of Baldwin Park, said he could already imagine Johnson getting on the phone and persuading great baseball players to come play for the Dodgers.

“They don’t call him Magic for nothing,” he said with a smile. “We’re going to need magic to turn the Dodgers around.”


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-- Paloma Esquivel in Ladera Heights and Hector Becerra downtown

Photo: Former Lakers star Magic Johnson and his wife, Cookie, wave to the crowd in 2010 at the Lakers' NBA championship victory parade. A group that includes Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday night to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record $2 billion. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press