Owners approve $430M sale of team

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

"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

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

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.

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.