Owners approve $430M sale of team

Updated: January 30, 2004, 3:56 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- The $430 million sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers from News Corp. to Boston real estate developer Frank McCourt was unanimously approved Thursday by baseball owners.

Beane Staying In Oakland
The Oakland Athletics ended the swell of rumors surrounding general manager Billy Beane on Friday, when A's owner, Steve Schott told the San Francisco Chronicle he would not grant the Dodgers permission to interview Beane.

"This offseason is behind us. We're ready to start," Schott told the paper. "Our roster is nearly complete, and the Dodgers' roster is nearly complete. I know Billy is satisfied. If they ask me about it next year, that's next year. There's nothing to talk about now. I don't anticipate anyone contacting me. But if they do, I'd have to say we're set.

"We work well together, and I have a lot of confidence in Billy," Schott told the paper. "He knows how I think, and I know how he thinks. We're on the same page."

It has also been rumored the Dodgers will interview former Mariners GM Pat Gillick.

"Welcome to a new era of Dodger baseball," McCourt said at a Dodger Stadium news conference. "I intend to restore the glory days of Dodger baseball with a team worthy of support from our fans. We've committed not just to buy this team, but to win a world championship."

The Dodgers haven't won a postseason game since winning the 1988 World Series.

"That's way too long," McCourt said. "My first objective is to end the drought. I truly know I can provide the leadership that this team needs to win."

The price is the second-highest for a baseball team, trailing only the $660 million paid for the Boston Red Sox two years ago. The highly leveraged purchase, likely to be completed within a week, probably will set off the third change in management in six years for the marquee franchise, which hasn't qualified for the playoffs since 1996.

"The Dodgers are one of our great franchises," commissioner Bud Selig said in a telephone interview. "We need stability there. We need a lot of energy. Having an unresolved ownership situation was, frankly, hurting the franchise."

McCourt said his wife, Jamie, will be vice chairman of the team, and Corey Busch, who helped negotiate the purchase, will be part of the front office.

"While today is not the day to talk about specific personnel changes, I do want to say I plan to act quickly and decisively to make the changes I feel necessary to get to our goal," McCourt said.

The O'Malley family controlled the Dodgers for nearly 48 years before selling to News Corp. in March 1998. The corporation quickly tired of running the club, and former movie executive Robert Daly took over as chief executive officer in October 1999 after purchasing a minority stake.

Daly has said he will depart when the sale closes. McCourt refused to discuss the futures of team president Bob Graziano, general manager Dan Evans and manager Jim Tracy. The Dodgers report to spring training on Feb. 18.

Los Angeles finished second in the NL West last season at 85-77 despite the worst offense in the major leagues. Still, the Dodgers drew over 3 million fans for the eighth straight year.

Dodgers ownership over the years
  O'Malley
('51-'97)
FOX
('98-'03)
Seasons 47 6
W-L 4074-3394 (.546) 597-537 (.526)
WS wins 6 0
NL pennants 13 0
Playoff app. 17 0
MVPs 8 0
Cy Youngs 8 1
ROYs 14 0

McCourt, 50, who believes the Dodgers were a bargain, says he will pay over $200 million in cash in the purchase. He emphasized he wants the Dodgers to win immediately and plans to pay what's necessary to do so. Los Angeles finished with a $113.2 million payroll last year.

"We're going to have a $100 million-plus payroll," he said. "We're going to sign a guy who can hit."

He promised other changes as well.

With the sale pending, the Dodgers made few moves during the offseason. Their only free-agent additions were right-handers Rick White and Jose Lima and infielder Jose Hernandez, who agreed to minor league contracts, and Bubba Trammell, who's expected to come off the bench.

Meanwhile, just down the Santa Ana Freeway, the 2002 World Series champion Anaheim Angels added pitchers Bartolo Colon and Kelvin Escobar and outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen.

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

He had lengthy talks with officials of the commissioner's office and other owners, who were concerned about the amount of debt in the deal. News Corp. will retain a minority stake.

Selig is convinced McCourt has the money to make the team successful.

"We have more stringent ownership rules than we've ever had," Selig said. "The banks were satisfied. We were satisfied. There's no doubt in my mind that he is will be a good owner of a very storied franchise."

Once one of baseball's most stable organizations, the Dodgers have won six World Series championships -- the first in 1955 while playing in Brooklyn. Walter O'Malley moved them to Los Angeles after the 1957 season and they won the title in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988.

Hall of Famer Tom Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers to their last two World Series triumphs and is now a senior vice president, teamed with longtime broadcaster Vin Scully to present the McCourts and two of their four sons with team jerseys.

Evans became GM at the end of the 2001 season -- Tracy's first as manager. Evans and Tracy are both under contract for this season.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press