The big news in Dodgerland tonight is that Frank and Jamie McCourt have reportedly separated. I've actually been hearing this rumor for a while, but I'm surprised it happened now. It's very disappointing that this news would come out the day before Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. Couldn't it have waited until after the season?
I don't really know the reason for the split, but I've heard that there was an internal struggle between Frank and Jamie on how to run the team's business operations. Frank had brought in Dennis Mannion as President, a very sharp executive who has done some great work for the team. Mannion had previously been an executive with the Baltimore Ravens. Jamie had brought in Dr. Charles Steinberg, who now "has permission to entertain offers from other MLB clubs." Steinberg grew up down the street from Jamie in Baltimore and supposedly lost influence to Mannion within the organization.
Any conjecture about the future of the Dodgers right now is just that... conjecture. I don't know what will happen, and it's inappropriate to speculate too much. I will speculate to a level though that I think is appropriate though. First off, Forbes estimates the value of the team is $722 million, a considerable increase on the $430 million that the McCourts paid back in 2004. It looks like they made a good investment. The couple's net worth is estimated at $1.29 billion according to the LA Business Journal.
Secondly, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal claims that if there is a divorce, then Jamie would be in a better position to buy out Frank. Third, most reporters this evening are bringing up John Moores' recent divorce which led him to slash the payroll of the San Diego Padres and then sell the team early this year. Let's hope the McCourts can either patch up their differences or if they hold onto the team for a little while, they do it in a way that doesn't cause them to give up the nucleus of a team that's reached the playoffs 3 times in 4 years.
If the McCourts did wind up having to sell the team, then who would buy them? Well, this is just pure speculation, but I'll throw a few names that might make sense. Again, this is speculation on my part, and I have no direct knowledge of anyone's intentions. First, AEG would figure to be a possibility, considering their investment in sports facilities all over the world and their position in the LA sports market. Ed Roski has done work with AEG in the past, but he is also working actively on bringing an NFL team to the City of Industry. That being said, Chavez Ravine has long been rumored as a potential site for a football team, and that could motivate any sale. Casey Wasserman is another name that could surface.
When the Dodgers were for sale earlier this decade, Alan Casden was a potential buyer for the team. So was David Checketts who is now trying to buy the Rams, and just removed Rush Limbaugh from his investment group. The Glazer family was also interested six years ago, led by Malcolm who owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United. Glazer lives in Beverly Hills, but owning the Dodgers could lead to issues with the NFL's cross-ownership policy. It's also possible they could skirt that issue if one of the Glazer sons bought the team, but there's a lot to work through in that scenario. There was also once a rumor that Eli Broad wanted to buy the Dodgers and install Peter O'Malley as team president. Dennis Gilbert is someone with LA ties who is currently trying to lead an investment group to buy the Texas Rangers. He actually interviewed for the Dodgers GM job once. Mark Cuban would like to own a baseball team, but he is not well-liked by MLB owners.
The current economic climate has reduced the number of people who could potentially buy the team, especially since it's now worth over $700 million. Buying the team would also include all of the land around Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. It's possible that anyone who buys the team will view the acquisition as a land deal. It's also possible that the McCourts could go through a messy divorce that puts the team in limbo for a few years, when hopefully the economy does improve and MLB could see the team sold for a higher price. In all likelihood, there would probably be several potential buyers who aren't on anyone's radar screen right now, whom most people have not heard of before.
It's certainly a heck of a time for all of this to happen.
Update: According to Frank McCourt's attorney, Frank is the sole owner of the team. Future control of the Dodgers could depend on the pre-nup.
If the McCourts are really about to go through a long and bitter divorce -- and reports are that could be the case -- then shame on them. They made every possible misstep after they bought the team, and after numerous regime changes, they finally have the organization where it should be. Through it all, they sent legions of Dodger fans on a bizarre roller coaster that most would just as soon like to forget.
Now, with the team about to begin its biggest playoff series in 20 years, there is a strong indication that millions of Dodger fans are about to be dragged through a long and messy divorce which will put ownership of the club into question. Dodger fans don't care about these two people, and they don't want the McCourts' personal problems to throw the organization into chaos. If the McCourts can't come to a speedy and amicable resolution, then they should do the people of Los Angeles a favor and sell the team as quickly as they can. Dodger fans deserve better.