News Column

Sale of Dodgers Brings Buzz, Hope

March 29, 2012

By Bob Nightengale

Magic Johnson

The Los Angeles Dodgers, disgraced by bankruptcy and a tarnished reputation, magically restored their credibility Wednesday with new ownership.

The ownership group, led by Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and former Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten, reached an agreement late Tuesday to purchase the historic franchise for $2.15 billion from owner Frank McCourt. It's the largest price paid for a sports franchise, nearly three times the MLB record of $845 million for the Chicago Cubs in 2008.

"I'm feeling pretty damn good. It's indescribable the pride you associate with the brand of the Dodgers," said Kasten, who told USA TODAY he would be CEO and president while Johnson and Mark Walter, CEO of Guggenheim Partners, would be the owners. There are no TV partners in the group, Kasten said; a 2014 bidding war is expected for the Dodgers' media rights, which could potentially be worth $5 billion.

Kasten said he even underestimated Johnson's impact with the fan base, and players were thrilled that perhaps the city's greatest sports icon would be in their owners' box.

"I think it's tight, man, for Magic to be one of our owners," said All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp, who signed an eight-year, $160 million extension this winter. "He knows what the Dodgers mean to L.A."

Johnson, who sold his 4% share of the Lakers a year ago, will have an office and an instrumental role with the franchise, Kasten said. Johnson will be heavily involved with civic leaders, sponsors and fans.

"The first person I wanted was Earvin. I knew he was the right choice," said Kasten, who tried to hire Johnson as coach of the Atlanta Hawks when he was the team's president.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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