Johnson hopes to lend his magic to Dodgers
Magic Johnson is about to learn $2 billion only buys you so much. Now he'll need to bring the Los Angeles Dodgers the same success he brought...
LOS ANGELES — Magic Johnson is about to learn $2 billion only buys you so much. Now he'll need to bring the Los Angeles Dodgers the same success he brought the Lakers.
News that Johnson and his partners agreed to purchase the team sparked a groundswell of excited chatter and optimism Wednesday that the man who ran "Showtime" could restore luster to the once-proud franchise.
The amount Johnson and his partners are paying would be mind-blowing if it was just for the team. But it also gives Johnson's group the right to reel in future riches from TV and real estate associated with the Dodgers.
"A big part of the purchase price is all those other things," said David Carter, executive director of USC Sports Business Institute. "You've got a great piece of property you can develop and make a game-day experience around Chavez Ravine. A likely billion-dollar cable (television) rights deal that will come out of it makes it a very unique sale."
Current owner Frank McCourt hand-picked Johnson's group to buy the Dodgers on Tuesday, just five hours after Major League Baseball approved three finalists in a bankruptcy auction. The deal is one of several steps toward a sale of the team by the end of April. It is subject to approval by a federal bankruptcy judge.
Commissioner Bud Selig has the right to review the final agreement. If MLB has objections, it would bring them up with mediator Joseph Farnan Jr.
Johnson's group would gain the ability to sell the Dodgers' local broadcasting rights starting with games in 2014. It likely would use money gained from the rights sale — or from the team's own network with outside investment — and use those funds to pay down the acquisition debt. The team's debt stood at $579 million as of January, according to a court filing.
Johnson is seemingly a perfect fit. He lives locally, he already knows what it takes to win championships and he's proven he can succeed in real estate, retail and entertainment — keys to helping the team bolster its coffers in pursuit of big-money free agents.
"He's well-grounded and well-respected," Carter said. "You have a strong presence in the community, he's connected to city hall and has a good relationship with the media. All these things are important and will help the community get over Frank."
And Johnson still has the dazzling smile that will make him a great public face for what once was — and could be again — one of baseball's marquee franchises.
"Great day for the Dodgers," slugger Matt Kemp said from spring training in Glendale, Ariz. "As Magic used to say, the Dodgers were the team that used to run L.A. Definitely we were going to have more fans out there this year. Now there's another reason to have the fans turn out."
Retired Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda has known Johnson since he first came to play for the Lakers.
"The most important part is he'll talk to some of the players individually about how to win. That's what we got to do right now is win again and bring our fans back," he said. "He knows how to talk to people, he knows how to impress people and how to build people up."
Hours after the announcement that Johnson's group was the winning bidder, the Dodgers said their April 10 home opener was sold out.
"As soon as you hear the name Magic Johnson, it turns into a positive," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "There's positive energy around the ballclub, around the city."
Johnson's group didn't comment Wednesday, but he said after their winning bid was announced that he was thrilled to be part of the franchise "as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles."
Johnson's partners in buying the Dodgers include Stan Kasten, former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals; and Peter Guber, a longtime Hollywood executive and co-owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors.
Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would be the controlling owner. Kasten would be the top day-to-day executive.