More questions about how Dodger purchase is being financed

Still no official word on particulars, but NYT columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin says that Guggenheim Partners head Mark Walter, who is leading the investment group, plans to use money from Guggenheim's insurance companies. From Sorkin:

Using insurance money -- which is typically supposed to be invested in simple, safe assets -- to buy a baseball team, the ultimate toy for the ultrarich, seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Mr. Walter has been somewhat open in acknowledging that Guggenheim's companies will be tapped, but the investor group has not disclosed how much of the purchase price is coming from individuals.

The transaction seems even more questionable when considering Mr. Walter's own words to The New York Times two weeks ago: "I don't want to realize a return on investment on buying the Dodgers. I want to have a multigenerational relationship that changes my life, Magic's life, Magic's grandchildren's lives and all of our lives."

So let's get this straight: Mr. Walter, who has a fiduciary duty to the firm's policyholders, plans to pump their money into a baseball team, even though he says he's not seeking to realize a return on the investment. And he is seemingly wildly overpaying by some $500 million more than the next highest bidder -- he outbid Steven Cohen, the hedge fund manager, among others -- so that he can be the league-designated owner of the Dodgers.

Sorkin points out that insurance companies do use their premiums to make investments, and sometimes they can be speculative. But rarely do those investments include a sports franchise, especially at such a huge premium.

People involved in the process who are close to Guggenheim said that while the company was using its insurance companies to pay for the Dodgers, it was a very good, prudent deal for its investors and policyholders. As long-term investors, these people said, the new owners could afford to be patient to see a return. One person involved in the deal, as a point of comparison, noted that MetLife had paid $400 million for the naming rights to Giants Stadium. "This is a much better deal," this person said. As for MetLife, "They don't own anything."

Meanwhile, there's this from the LAT's Bill Shaikin:

The Dodgers should not be required to reveal the conditions that govern use of the land surrounding Dodger Stadium, the team argued in a court filing Monday. Those restrictions include "sensitive non-public commercial information" that should remain sealed, the team claimed. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross is set to hear the matter Friday, as part of a hearing in which he is expected to approve the sale of the team. Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the Dodgers to Guggenheim Baseball Management for $2.15 billion, with the parties jointly owning the parking lots that circle the stadium. The lots are owned by a McCourt entity that was not part of the bankruptcy filing, and so Dodgers attorneys have said details of the joint venture need not be disclosed in Bankruptcy Court.

Let's reiterate that since these entities are privately held, they're under little obligation to disclose anything. But clearly, it looks bad, especially coming after the McCourt disaster.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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