Bob Graziano, the new president and chief executive of the Dodgers, recently received a box full of sports books published by HarperCollins Publishers, courtesy of Rupert Murdoch.
It was no mere gift. HarperCollins is owned by Murdoch's News Corp., whose Fox division bought the Dodgers a couple of months ago.
"We try to work with everyone within the Fox organization, whether it be people within Fox Sports or the HarperCollins book division," Graziano said. "I'm not sure what kind of opportunities are out there in the future."
So will Graziano be pitching Fox executives on ideas for Dodger-oriented books? The extent of such cross-pollination remains to be seen, but it does illustrate Fox's attitude toward the Dodgers.
In the words of PaineWebber analyst Christopher Dixon: "The Dodgers are no more than content."
It's been two months since Fox formally acquired the Dodgers, and change is in the air. Graziano has held strategy sessions several times a week with News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin and Fox Television Chairman Chase Carey. Fox and Dodgers executives are working with construction and architectural firms to plan the renovation of Dodger Stadium. And new cable schedules are being planned.
Graziano stressed that very few changes have been implemented, and Dodgers and Fox executives are still in the early planning stages on most ideas.
"You've got to keep in mind that the organization was sold March 19 less than eight weeks ago," he said. "In terms of specific organizational changes, there have really been none yet."
Added Carey: "You don't necessarily know what all the opportunities are. Some of them are more traditional rights in the way of television. But what are the other extensions that you can develop and explore, whether that is in a new-media context, whether that is in a merchandising context, in a retail context, what have you."
However those questions play out, it's already clear that the Dodgers under Fox will be a vastly different organization than the one under former owner Peter O'Malley, whose family brought the franchise to L.A. from Brooklyn 40 years ago.
And though O'Malley has stayed on as chairman, he sees his role gradually diminishing over the coming months. "I told them I'd stay until the end of the year, and after that we will see what happens," O'Malley said. "It's only May, and I'm not going to start thinking about that until the fall."
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