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While the Los Angeles Dodgers might not attract the Hollywood stars that regularly pack Staples Center for Los Angeles Lakers games, there appears to be a slew of players with entertainment business connections who might be interested in buying the storied baseball franchise.
It was announced Wednesday that Major League Baseball will take over control of the team from beleaguered owner Frank McCourt and will soon appoint a trustee to handle its business and day-to-day operations.
McCourt, who recently required a $30 million personal loan from Fox to meet the Dodgers’ payroll and remains involved in a dispute with his estranged wife, Jamie, over ownership of the team, has signaled he will fight MLB’s decision. However, the move by Commissioner Bud Selig has put the team on the road to being sold. And though it’s only been a day since MLB announced its decision, several businessmen with ties to Hollywood are being bandied about as possible buyers of the team.
The pairing of the Dodgers and Hollywood makes sense to Jeff Marks, managing director of Premier Partnerships, a Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment business development firm.
“You want ownership to represent your community, and if an ownership group comes in that has ties to the entertainment industry, it really is a great fit,” Marks says.
Several sports and entertainment business sources were loath to go on the record and handicap those who are being floated as potential successors to McCourt because talk of an ownership change is only just getting started. However, sources say it’s likely that any Hollywood player who makes a run at the team will need far more than showbiz pedigree.
“When you see a trophy asset like the Dodgers potentially come up for sale you will always hear some intriguing, eye-catching names,” says David Carter, executive director of USC’s Sports Business Institute. “While you almost always hear of those related to the entertainment industry expressing interest, you often end up with someone from banking or finance or other areas where they can bring substantial wealth and other business relationships to the table.”
Here’s a look (in alphabetical order) at the deep-pocketed Hollywood businessmen who have been spotlighted as interested or in the running for a prospective purchase (including a few who have told THR or other news organizations that they have no interest):
— Mark Attanasio: The Los Angeles-based money manager, who owns MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, was noted by the Los Angeles Times Thursday as an interested party. Attanasio is the brother of House executive producer Paul Attanasio, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Donnie Brasco and Quiz Show. However, a story posted this afternoon to the website of Milwaukee Small Business Times quotes a Brewers spokesman who shot down reports of Mark Attanasio’s interest in buying the Dodgers.
— Thomas Barrack: The billionaire founder and CEO of Santa Monica-based investment firm Colony Capital is also a co-owner of Miramax Films. Colony already co-owns a notable sports franchise: the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, one of France’s most popular soccer teams. Colony declined to comment.
— Eli Broad: The billionaire arts patron is often listed as a potential savior when one of L.A.’s ailing institutions is in need of TLC. Over the years he has considered purchasing the Los Angeles Times and he’s also come to the aid of local museums: He gave $30 million to the financially strapped Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008. Broad has taken a run at the Dodgers in the past. In 2004, he offered to buy the team if McCourt’s deal to purchase it fell through. Broad’s spokeswoman, Karen Denne, says the philanthropist is not interested in buying the Dodgers. “Eli Broad does not currently have any interest in owning the Dodgers, but he believes in local ownership of the team,” she says.
— Mark Cuban: A list of prospective Dodgers owners would be incomplete without a mention of the billionaire entrepreneur whose name often comes up when an MLB team is for sale. Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, has made unsuccessful runs at purchasing MLB’s Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. Earlier this week, Cuban said he was interested in selling his movie theater chain Landmark Theatres and film distribution company Magnolia Pictures. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
— Dennis Gilbert: The former sports agent is co-founder of Gilbert-Krupin, an insurance and estate planning company that caters to high net-worth individuals, including athletes and celebrities. He is also an adviser to MLB’s Chicago White Sox, lives in Los Angeles and frequently attends Dodgers games (he sits right behind home plate). Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported on speculation that Gilbert could buy the team. In a brief interview on Thursday afternoon, Gilbert was mum on his interest in buying the Dodgers. “The team isn’t for sale,” he said, declining to comment further.
— Alec Gores: The billionaire Los Angeles businessman, who made his fortune with the leveraged buyouts of technology companies, is the brother of Tom Gores, who recently purchased the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, and Sam Gores, chairman of Paradigm Talent Agency. Alec Gores could not immediately be reached for comment at his Westwood-based Gores Group, a private equity firm. It has also been suggested that Tom Gores is interested in the Dodgers, though that notion has been shot down by a representative of his company, Platinum Equity. “Neither Tom Gores nor Platinum Equity are interested in purchasing the Dodgers,” says Mark Barnhill, a principal at Beverly Hills-based Platinum.
— Peter Guber: The CEO of multiplatform production company Mandalay Entertainment Group already has strong sports ties. He is a co-owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and Mandalay’s sports arm, Mandalay Sports Entertainment, owns five minor league baseball teams. Forbes has called his baseball holdings likely the most valuable collection of minor league teams. Mandalay Sports Entertainment also formerly owned the 51s, the onetime Triple-A affiliate of the Dodgers; the company sold the team, now affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, in 2008. Guber declined to comment.
— Magic Johnson: The Lakers legend already is involved in another L.A. sports team shuffle: Johnson has teamed up with developer AEG and sports business executive Casey Wasserman in an effort to bring an NFL team back to the city. The local hero, who last year sold his minority ownership stake in the Lakers in a move widely believed to be a harbinger of his investment in another sports franchise, would be a good fit for the Dodgers. That’s according to ESPN senior writer J.A. Adande, who advocated for Johnson to buy the team in a column last year. Johnson could not immediately be reached for comment.
— Casey Wasserman: The sports businessman and grandson of late Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman is heavily involved in the effort to bring an NFL team to a downtown Los Angeles stadium that would be built by AEG next to Staples Center. Wasserman, who heads Westwood-based sports business firm Wasserman Media Group, already has professional sports team ownership experience, having previously owned the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League. His company has a representation arm that boasts a client list of more than 900 athletes. Wasserman could not immediately be reached for comment. RELATED: Casey Wasserman: Why I Want an NFL Franchise in L.A.
— Tom Werner: The longtime television producer behind such shows as Roseanne, Grace Under Fire and The Cosby Show, is a co-owner of MLB’s Boston Red Sox and Premier League soccer team Liverpool Football Club. Though Werner’s name has been floated by Boston’s sports media as a prospective buyer, he told the Boston Globe on Thursday that he wasn’t interested in owning the Dodgers.
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