Compared to the Lakers, the Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t cultivated much of a relationship with Hollywood. But that could change thanks to the inclusion of Laker great Magic Johnson and former Sony Pictures head Peter Guber among the new owners of the storied baseball franchise.
Guber, 70, brings proven skills as a marketer as well as deep contacts among L.A.’s show business elite and a bag of tricks honed during 15 years as an owner of successful minor-league teams (some of them with Johnson) and, for the past year, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. “We often joke that when fans leave the baseball games, many don’t even know who won or lost,” says Larry Freedman, president of Guber’s Mandalay Baseball partnership with New York investor Bill Luby. “It’s the notion Peter has that you have to entertain fans from the time they receive tickets in the mail until they drive home,” notes Howard Nuchow, co-head of CAA Sports, who previously worked for Mandalay Sports.
Guber, who in 1973 at age 31 was named head of worldwide production at Columbia Pictures (his movies include Taxi Driver, The Way We Were, Rain Man and The Witches of Eastwick), later became a producer and ran Sony Pictures until he left in 1994 amid big spending and losses at the company. His Mandalay Entertainment has since refashioned itself as an investor in the sports, digital and entertainment space, making friends and partners as diverse as New Line’s Toby Emmerich, Funny or Die’s Dick Glover and producer Mike Tollin.
Guber’s ownership stake in the Dodgers is said to be small (Guggenheim Partners, owner of The Hollywood Reporter‘s parent company, is said to control the largest share), but his creative instincts could help make crucial marketing and other operational decisions. Joe Lacob, Guber’s partner in the Warriors, calls the Boston native “creative” and “elastic” in his thinking and said he will use his knowledge of technology to connect new generations of fans to the Dodgers, which needs an image makeover after the Frank McCourt era. Says Lacob: “He cares more than any owner about the team, the image of the team and what the fans think.”