Feels like we’re finally making progress in this ownership mess, aren’t we? For weeks, every bit of information that came out was blanketed in caveats like “at least” or “publicly known”; for a while, we didn’t even know how many bidders were actually involved in this thing. Earlier this month, we found out that eleven bidders remained, and today, Bill Shaikin lets us know the list has been sliced to seven. We already knew that both the Joe Torre and Peter O’Malley groups had dropped out, and today we learned that Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley and Milwaukee Brewers investor Tony Ressler are no longer involved. (Whether they dropped out voluntarily or had that decision made for them is unclear.)
Here’s an updated list of the seven survivors:
1) Magic Johnson / Stan Kasten
2) Stephen Cohen / Arn Tellem
3) Leo Hindery / Tom Barrack
4) Stanley Gold / family of Roy Disney
5) Alan Casden
6) Stan Kroenke
7) Jared Kushner
We’ve been through most of these groups before. Cohen and Kushner get massive, massive “DO NOT WANT” grades from me, while Kroenke troubles me somewhat because of the potential that he’s more interested in the Rams than in baseball. I honestly can’t say I’ve formed much of an opinion yet on Hindery/Barrack, Casden, or Gold/Disney, while the Johnson/Kasten group is really the only one that stands out to me right now as a particular favorite, particularly if uberbillionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong gets involved, as most expect he will. Remember, even at this late date, there’s no reason some of these groups couldn’t change. If, for example, the Gold/Disney group think they need to shore up the baseball side of things, they could always go out and bring aboard a Torre or an Orel Hershiser – it’s not set in stone. (And that’s just pure speculation on my part, as well.)
What this doesn’t answer is the open question about Frank McCourt’s position regarding the parking lots, which of course scared the hell out of all of us last week. Steve Dilbeck suggests that all of the bidders should drop out unless McCourt agrees to include the lots and completely rid himself of any association with the Dodgers, which, while noble, is pretty far-fetched. (Though it does raise the interesting legal question of just what would happen if a man with a legally obligated deadline to sell the team – but not the lots – suddenly had no bids at all.) Even former McCourt crony Steve Soboroff spoke up recently, saying that working with McCourt can always lead to more trouble.
Now that the Blackstone Group, the investment group which is handling this sale for McCourt, has settled on these seven bidders, the next step is that they are all submitted to Major League Baseball for final approval. We don’t know the exact timetable for that process; whomever makes it through MLB approval will then be considered the group of finalists from which McCourt will make his final decision. Since it’s just over a month until April 1, when McCourt is mandated to select his winner, we won’t have to wait too long.