The Frank McCourt chapter in Dodgers history came to an end Tuesday night. The team announced that it reached an agreement to sell the club to the bidding group led by Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and the Guggenheim Partners. Give MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick credit for the original scoop. The price is $2.15 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Matt Futterman.
Unsurprisingly, the sale price is the largest ever paid for a North American sports franchise. It is more than double the previous MLB record, which belonged to Tom Ricketts, who paid roughly $845 million for the Cubs in 2009. Previous Dodgers owner Frank McCourt bought the team from NewsCorp for $430 million in 2004. His debt has been estimated at $1.1 billion, so despite running the team into the ground, he’ll still walk away with close to $1 billion in profit.
In short, Dodgers fans should be thrilled. The club is getting decades of baseball experience from Kasten — he’s the former president of the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, presiding over the latter’s glory years from 1986 to 2003 — the financial firepower of Guggenheim Partners and the star power of Magic Johnson. While it’ll be Johnson who gets much of the attention, ESPN’s Molly Knight says Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter will assume controlling interest of the team.
A lot of people around the game should be thrilled, as well. San Diego Padres’ owner John Moores is looking to move his team after his agreement with Jeff Moorad recently fell through. Now the bar has been raised. If the Steinbrenner family ever decides to sell the New York Yankees, the $2.15 billion benchmark will be easily eclipsed. The league itself should be happy because baseball is better off when the Dodgers are relevant. Quite frankly, the team has nowhere to go but up.
Today is a great day in Dodgers history. McCourt turned one of baseball’s most historic clubs into a laughing stock, but he’s now being shown the door with an appropriately high-profile ownership group taking control of a high-profile team. Much like the way the Rangers went from near bankruptcy to big spenders soon after that sale, expect the Dodgers to do the same — just on a larger scale.