How Magic Johnson Convinced Peter Guber to Join His Dodgers Bid

Peter Guber and Magic Johnson: The Owners
Wesley Mann

Guber, the former head of Sony Pictures, had turned down repeated requests to help buy the Dodgers. Then he got a call from Magic Johnson, who co-owns one of Guber’s Dayton, Ohio, minor-league baseball team, which has sold out a record 897 consecutive games. “He said, ‘Come on, we’ve been so lucky together, we’ve been so good together, let’s do it, let’s do it, let’s do it,’ ” says Guber, who finally decided to join the team. “I said, ‘F— it, OK.’”

“This is what the right ownership group should look like,” says CAA Sports co-head Howard Nuchow. “I think they did this perfectly. You have serious investors who understand what it is to unlock value, and you have experienced operators.”

The longtime Hollywood player had turned down other groups that asked him to come aboard their efforts to buy the team.

Mandalay Entertainment Group CEO Peter Guber didn’t want buy the Dodgers, but a call from his longtime friend and business partner Earvin “Magic” Johnson helped change his mind.

Guber had actually considered buying the team once before, and it didn’t work out. He had been approached in the early 2000s and declined to join Frank McCourt in his effort to purchase the team from News Corp., which the Boston businessman later did in 2004.

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So when three different groups asked Guber last fall to help try to buy the Dodgers from the embattled McCourt, he turned each down flatly. After all, the former head of Sony Pictures -- he greenlighted such hits as Sleepless in Seattle and A League of Their Own -- figured he already had his hands full overseeing his six minor-league baseball teams and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, which he had bought with a partner a year earlier for $450 million.

But when Johnson called Guber to discuss the Dodgers, things were different. The two had worked together in the 1990s when Sony partnered with Johnson to launch his eponymous chain of movie theaters, and the former Los Angeles Lakers great is a co-owner of Guber’s minor-league baseball club in Dayton, Ohio, that has sold out 897 consecutive games, a record for professional sports. 

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“Magic called and he said, ‘Come on, we’ve been so lucky together, we’ve been so good together, let’s do it, let’s do it, let’s do it,’ ” said Guber. So after meeting with Johnson, and others in the prospective ownership group, Guber decided to join the team that would make the $2.15 billion winning offer, which more than doubled the previous record price for a North American sports franchise. “I said, ‘F— it, OK,’ and my wife thought it was absolutely insane,” said Guber. “She said, ‘Are you crazy?’ ” 

(New York- and Chicago-based Guggenheim Partners, which has an ownership interest in the Dodgers, is co-owner with Pluribus Capital Management of Prometheus Global Media, the parent company of THR.)


Twitter: @DanielNMiller