Frank McCourt selling Dodgers. Who might be buying?

Frank McCourt, the troubled owner of the L.A. Dodgers, has agreed to put the team up for auction. Who will buy the team from Frank McCourt?

Christine Cotter/AP/File
In file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers closing pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo pitches in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros in Los Angeles. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the team.

If you’re a billionaire shopping around for a Major League Baseball (MLB) team, this is your lucky day. Late Tuesday, embattled Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt agreed with the league to start the process to sell his team.

The move puts an end to a financially tumultuous two years for Mr. McCourt and the Dodgers.  Earlier in the year, the league charged McCourt with “looting” $189 million in unauthorized team revenue for personal use. The ball club was forced to file for bankruptcy in June after MLB commissioner Bud Selig rejected a 17-year,  $3 billion TV contract with FOX that McCourt needed to keep the team afloat. That meant the team was unable to make its $30 million end-of-month payroll.

McCourt also just settled a costly divorce with his wife, Jamie, who will walk away with $130 million after a two-year legal battle that cost an estimated $35 million in legal fees.

So the sale was all but essential for the financially stretched McCourt, who bought the Dodgers organization for  $430 million in 2004. The team, surrounding properties (parking lost, stadium, etc.), and media rights are expected to fetch between $800 billion and $1.2 billion this time around.

But who can pony up that kind of cash to buy to Dodgers? Several people, it turns out. Here are the names of six potential owners making the rounds right now:

Mark Cuban

The polarizing owner of the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday that he would be interested in buying the Dodgers – if the price came down a bit.

“At the right price, I’m interested,” Mr. Cuban told the newspaper. “Not if the price is over $1 billion.” This isn’t Cuban’s first attempt at breaking into the MLB: In 2010, he tried to buy the Texas Rangers at a bankruptcy auction, but was beaten out by a group of investors led by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. The Rangers went for $600 million, which is about half of the Dodgers’ potential asking price. In 2008, Cuban bid $1.3 billion for the Chicago Cubs, but the MLB rejected him.

“You can’t ever count Cuban out,” said ESPN analyst Jerry Crasnick, on ESPN’s Sports Center on Wednesday. “but I’ve always thought baseball was a little bit wary of Mark Cuban. He’s not sort of the old-boy-network type.”

Dennis Gilbert

Mr. Gilbert, a popular retired sports agent based in Los Angeles, has been in the conversation to buy the Dodgers for as long as there has been a conversation. In his agent days, Gilbert negotiated huge contracts for players like Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds.  He is well-liked and highly respected in sports circles, and already a fixture at Dodgers’ games. He’s also a Los Angeles native and a lifelong Dodgers fan, a quality that Dodgers’ fans may be looking for after 7-1/2 tumultuous years under McCourt, an East Coast outsider.

Gilbert has served as an adviser to the Chicago White Sox management, and he led an investor group that nearly bought the Texas Rangers in 2009.

Mark Attanasio

Mr. Attanasio has been the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers since 2005, and, by most accounts, he is pretty happy there. The Brewers have thrived since Attanasio purchased them from Bud Selig for $223 million. They went an even .500 in Attanasio’s first year at the helm, their best season since 1992. This year, they made it to the National League championship series. Attanasio has adamantly denied rumors that he is interested in the Dodgers, but he’s a longtime Los Angeles resident who still works as an executive at an L.A. based money management firm, and Dodgers’ fans can’t help but dream of having such a nice a guy as their team’s owner.

Ron Burkle

Mr. Burkle is a billionaire investment magnate and co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and he expressed interest in the Dodgers months before they came up for sale. According to the LA Times, Burkle was rumored to have been approached by Jamie McCourt to buy out her husband’s stake in the team. In April, reports surfaced that the California native was part of an investment group assembled by Steve Garvey, the popular 1970s Dodgers catcher, but Burkle is not officially linked with Mr. Garvey just yet.

Alan Casden

Mr. Casden, a real estate billionaire who lives in Beverly Hills, tried to buy the Dodgers in 2004, but he was beat out by McCourt. Now that the team is back on the market, he may be interested once again.  Back in 2003, Casden said he would build a new stadium for the Dodgers in downtown L.A. once he became owner. Would he have the same plans if he won the team this time around?

Magic Johnson

The L.A. Lakers basketball legend owns a stake in a minor league ball team, and he has sung the praises of the Dodgers brand in interviews. “If the Dodgers ever came up for sale, would I take a look at it with some other people? Of course you would look at it,” Mr. Johnson said at an L.A. Times forum in August.  Johnson sold his stake in the Lakers last year, and has since been rumored to be interested in owning another NBA team, or bringing an NFL team back to Los Angeles. Nothing came of those rumors, but maybe the Dodgers one will stick. 

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