Dodgers sold to Magic Johnson's group for 2B

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Dodgers sold to Magic Johnson's group for 2B

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- One Los Angeles institution is buying another. A group that includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday night to buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record 2 billion. The price would shatter the mark for a sports franchise. Stephen Ross paid 1.1 billion for the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 2009, and in England, Malcolm Glazer and his family took over the Manchester United soccer club in 2005 in a deal then valued at 1.47 billion. Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would become the controlling owner. The deal, revealed about five hours after Major League Baseball owners approved three finalists for an intended auction, is one of several steps toward a sale of the team by the end of April. It is subject to approval in federal bankruptcy court. "I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles," Johnson said in a statement. As part of the agreement, the Dodgers said McCourt and "certain affiliates of the purchasers" would acquire the land surrounding Dodger Stadium, including its parking lots, for 150 million. "If they invested that much money, I'm sure they'll invest to get us a winner," said Tommy Lasorda, the Dodgers' retired Hall of Fame manager. "I wish them all the luck, and I admire them. I know both of them. I know Magic from the day he came into Los Angeles as a basketball player for the Lakers." The acquiring group, called Guggenheim Baseball Management, has several other investors, among them Mandalay Entertainment chief executive Peter Guber, Guggenheim Partners president Todd Boehly and Bobby Patton, who operates oil and gas properties among his investments. Kasten is the former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. "I am truly honored to have partnered with such talented individuals and to be associated with the Dodgers organization," said Walter. "We look forward to building upon the legacy of the Dodgers and providing long-term stability to one of the most revered franchises in baseball." The 52-year-old Johnson played 13 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA championships and three MVP awards in a Hall of Fame career. He retired from the NBA in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He briefly came out of retirement during the 1995-96 season and had a short stint coaching the Lakers. Since leaving basketball, he has been very successful in business, investing in movie theaters, a production company and restaurants. He has also been an activist in the fight against HIV. "I'm upset he didn't cut me in," current Lakers star Kobe Bryant said. "I'm going to have to talk to him about that." McCourt paid 430 million in 2004 to buy the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that include the parking lots, from the Fox division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., a sale that left the team with about 50 million in cash at the time. The team's debt stood at 579 million as of January, according to a court filing, so McCourt stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars even after a 131 million divorce payment to former wife Jamie, taxes and legal and banking fees. Kasten is expected to wind up as the team's top day-to-day executive. The other two finalists were: -- Stan Kroenke, whose family owns the NFL's St. Louis Rams, the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids. He also is majority shareholder of Arsenal in the English Premier League. -- Steven Cohen, founder of the hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors and a new limited partner of the New York Mets; biotechnology entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong; and agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group. It remains to be seen whether Major League Baseball will challenge the deal in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, where the case is before Judge Kevin Gross. Under an agreement reached by MLB and McCourt in November, a private auction was to be held among the finalists and McCourt was to select the winner by Sunday. The sales agreement is to be submitted to the bankruptcy court by April 6, ahead of a hearing seven days later, and the sale completed by April 30, the day McCourt is to make a divorce settlement payment. "This agreement with Guggenheim reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community," McCourt said in a statement. The acquiring group would gain the ability to sell the Dodgers' local broadcasting rights starting with games in 2014. The Guggenheim group likely would use money gained from the rights sale -- or from the team's own network with outside investment -- and use those funds to pay down the acquisition debt. "The amount of leverage is a big question," said Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based consulting firm Sportscorp, which is not involved. "The likely scenario is that they have a broadcasting deal in mind so that they pay up now and pay themselves down from a big broadcasting upfront payment. "The problem with this strategy is that the more paid upfront by the broadcast deal, the less money is available for team operations. The more debt they take on, the more debt service is required, the less money that's available for team operations. With the only beneficiary being the man walking out the door. A challenging result that baseball tried to avoid." The current record for a baseball franchise is the 845 million paid by the Ricketts family for the Chicago Cubs in 2009. The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy protection in late June, just days before the team was expected to miss payroll. The filing came after baseball Commissioner Bud Selig refused to approve a 17-year agreement between the Dodgers and Fox's Prime Ticket subsidiary that would have been worth 2 billion or more. MLB feared McCourt would use about half of an intended 385 million cash advance to fund his divorce. Los Angeles finished third in the NL West last season at 82-79, had just three sellouts and fell short of 3 million in home attendance in a full season for the first time since 1992. There was some concern among MLB officials about the financing of the Walter bid because some of the money was coming from insurance companies that are owned by Guggenheim. A person familiar with the baseball owners' teleconference Tuesday said several team owners voiced that during the call. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because MLB did not make any announcements. "The problem there is a fundamental problem as you go into an auction, and that is the absolute reliance on other people's money," said Ganis. "It means a lot of regulators. It means either shareholders or, depending on which insurance companies it's coming from, the insured themselves." Kasten was hired as legal counsel of the Braves and the NBA's Hawks in 1976, and three years later became the NBA's youngest general manager at 27. He was promoted to president of the Braves and Hawks in 1986 and also became president of the NHL's Thrashers in 1999. After leaving the Atlanta teams in 2003, he became president of the Washington Nationals from 2006-10. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti recently had dinner with Kasten in Glendale, Ariz., the team's spring training home. "He's very successful, very driven, relentless in his pursuit of excellence," Colletti said. "He's seen a lot and he's won a lot." The Dodgers have won six World Series titles but none since 1988, when they were still owned by the O'Malley family that moved the team from Brooklyn to California after the 1957 season. Fox bought the team in 1998, then sold it to McCourt. Colletti, whose baseball moves appear to have been constricted because of the team's financial problems, says the sale announcement brings "clarity." "It's time to turn the page and move toward a new chapter in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers," he said.

Curran: Texans perfectly positioned to slow down Brady and the Patriots

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Curran: Texans perfectly positioned to slow down Brady and the Patriots

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes in 14 of the 273 games he started and finished. The Patriots are 6-8 in those games. Among the 14 are three games against Rex Ryan’s Jets, including two in 2013 and the second game of the season in 2009. There’s also the 2015 AFC Championship against Denver, the playoff win over the Texans last year, and the season-opening loss to the Chiefs this year.

The common denominator in those six games? Outstanding defenses with coordinators and personnel that new Brady well and -- in all but the win over the Texans last January -- a dearth of wide receivers.

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Every year there’s a search for the BLUEPRINT!!! for slowing down the Patriots offense and making Brady look mortal. Google “blueprint for beating the Patriots” and you get 370,000 results. Many of those say the 2007 Giants crafted it first. Few of those mention praying for dropped interceptions and helmet catches in the final two minutes.

The most sure way to slow down the Patriots offense is to have really good defensive players who can bring pressure and (this is the key) hoping the Patriots are banged up at wideout and can’t do their usual damage in the middle of the field.

That’s your blueprint. And it’s in place this week. This isn’t saying the Patriots will lose to Houston, who I’ll wager won’t produce more than 10 offensive points. But I’ll also bet you straight up that Brady completes fewer than half of his passes against Houston.

No Edelman, Gronk with a groin, Danny Amendola coming back from concussion and Brandin Cooks still getting adjusted will leave the Texans knowing their key to success is jamming the middle and making Brady work outside.  

The Texans were fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt last season (5.83), second in passing yards allowed per game (201), first in first downs allowed per game (17) and second in completion percentage against (58.68).

Brady knows what’s coming. He talked about it earlier this week on WEEI with Kirk and Callahan, saying, “They were the No. 1-ranked defense in the league last year. I don’t think I completed many passes in that game, either. I think I was below 50 percent. They just did a good job of putting pressure and when you put pressure, the ball has to come out quick and they had a lot of guys in coverage, too. It was just tough to get rid of it quick. The one positive we took out of that game was we made a lot of big plays. Some teams are going to decide to take away some shorter throws, and they give up longer plays. I think we had seven plays over 20 yards in that game. We moved the ball pretty well. It just didn’t look super rhythmic."

The Texans were able to get pressure and drop a lot of guys in coverage because they have exceptional talent up front.

Brady broke down the Texans’ front on Wednesday, starting with J.J. Watt, saying, “Earlier in his career you used to kind of get a bead on where he’d be, [which] could help you out a little bit. But now they move him so much he’s going to really face every guy that you have up front. [He’ll] be on both sides, be inside, be outside. They run a lot of games. They’ve got a lot of scheme stuff that they use to try to get their guys free in the front, but all of those guys are exceptional athletes. J.J. is an incredible player. He’s been Defensive Player of the Year (three times). He’s got speed, quickness, power, he’s got all the moves, got all the counters. He’s just a tough guy to block.

“Then you pair him with Whitney Mercilus, who’s one of the most underrated players, I think, in the league in terms of rushing the passer to everything that he does to help that team. I know practicing against that guy how good he is. And then with Jadeveon [Clowney], he’s one of the most athletic guys in the league. He does some things that other people can’t do. He’s just size, speed, explosiveness. So all those guys on the same field at one time is a big problem for any offense. You don’t want to be holding the ball too long because you know that they’re going to get home at some point and I think that means we’ve got to really stay on track. We can’t have many negative plays. We’ve just got to play a really consistent kind of football for the entire game.”

The Texans are in a little bit of trouble at corner this week. One starter, Kevin Johnson, is down with an MCL and Johnathan Joseph will be playing with a shoulder injury that forced him from last week’s game against the Bengals.  

The Patriots made it look easy last week against the Saints, which caused people who’d been pointing out Brady was BORN IN 1977!!!! stare at their shoelaces for a few days. But they’re just resting because they’ll be back Sunday evening and into Monday with the same “old” song, ignoring the facts of the case.

The facts are that Brady -- with a full complement in the playoffs last year and the Texans missing J.J. Watt -- had his hands full to the tune of a 47.37 completion percentage, the lowest completion percentage in 34 career playoff games. Without Edelman in this season's opener (and losing Amendola midway through), he completed 44.44 percent of his passes -- fourth-worst among games he started and finished.

The key in this one could be Cooks. As Brady pointed out, the Texans yielded some chunk plays. Cooks, who’s got speed to spare on the outside, will likely be looking at press coverage that -- if he can be beat it -- will give him a chance to run under some Brady duck-and-chucks. And there will be some of those.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien -- whose defense is run by former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel -- isn’t looking at the KC game as a blueprint. He’s looking instead at the 27 points scored and the points left on the field by New England.

“When I look at their offense, obviously they didn’t win the game, but there were several things that they did in the game that were very good,” said O’Brien. “They’re a very dangerous team on offense. They play fast. They play with great efficiency. They have a different game plan every week, different personnel that they’re using and so, it’s difficult. You don’t really know what to expect. The combination of Tom and Josh [McDaniels], the brains behind that offense, it’s hard. It’s hard to deal with that and we’re just going to have to see what it is when the game starts and do the best we can to keep up with what they’re trying to do and go from there.”

The Patriots offense knows generally what’s coming from Houston and vice versa. The Patriots won’t be “rhythmic” and there will be balls skipping in the general vicinity of where Brady hoped a receiver would be when he let it go with Watt or Mercilus bearing down on him. Bet on it.

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