Vote will be taken today

Updated: January 29, 2004, 12:03 PM ET news services

LOS ANGELES -- Baseball owners are expected to approve the proposed sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers from News Corp. to Boston real estate developer Frank McCourt when a vote is taken Thursday during a telephone conference call.

The Dodgers are scheduled to hold a news conference at 5:30 p.m. ET.

McCourt, whose grandfather was part owner of the Boston Braves, announced Oct. 10 he had agreed in principal to buy the team along with Dodger Stadium and adjoining real estate, plus training facilities in Vero Beach, Fla., and the Dominican Republic. The sale is worth $430 million.

The vote on the highly leveraged sale comes two days before a Jan. 31 deadline for closing the transaction.

McCourt and his lawyer met with baseball officials and News Corp. for three days last week in New York to work out final details.

Baseball officials wanted to make sure the sale complies with the sport's rules about the level of debt. As part of the talks, the sides agreed that the amount of debt could be reduced in the future by converting some of it to equity.

Twenty-two of the 30 owners must approve the sale.

McCourt faces damage-control issues and decisions regarding front-office personnel as he takes over the team.

The Dodgers have done little during the offseason to improve baseball's least productive offense, and most of the top free agents have signed with other teams.

McCourt has been under heavy media criticism in recent weeks for the lack of offseason moves and questions concerning his finances.

Earlier this month, at the urging of Mayor James K. Hahn, Los Angeles developer and philanthropist Eli Broad offered to buy the Dodgers if McCourt's bid fell through. Then, a city councilman introduced a motion that the team should find a local owner.

"Out of the box, he's coming here in a tough spot," local sports marketing consultant David M. Carter said. "Maybe the fact that no one locally has stepped up really reinforces the fact that the Dodgers are a money-losing proposition. If they're such a great deal, somebody would have popped up a long time ago that would have been a great fit.

"A lot of people don't think McCourt has spent enough time here. He's really going to have to endear himself to Southern California fans. If you're a hard-core Dodgers fan, you view him skeptically because the perception is that it's his fault that nothing's been done in the offseason. He's going to have to spend a lot of time working on his image."

Manager Jim Tracy and general manager Dan Evans are under contract through the 2004 season, but that doesn't guarantee they'll be around after the sale is completed.

Chairman Bob Daly, who owns 5 percent of the team, already has said he's leaving once the deal closes.

The O'Malley family sold the Dodgers to News Corp. nearly five years ago for $311 million. The payroll skyrocketed almost immediately, but it never translated into a playoff berth.

The Dodgers haven't qualified for the playoffs since 1996 and haven't won a postseason game since beating Oakland 4-1 in the 1988 World Series.

Despite baseball's least-productive offense, the Dodgers were 85-77 last season. They finished second in the NL West, 15 games behind the San Francisco Giants.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.