Eight years later, it’s a whole new ballgame.

Back in late 2003 when the Los Angeles Dodgers were last up for sale, few local businessmen expressed interest in buying the team, leaving the way clear for Boston parking lot operator Frank McCourt.

Now, as this week’s initial bidding deadline arrives, at least 11 local businessmen – five of them billionaires on the Business Journal’s Wealthiest Angelenos List – have either expressed their intent to bid or are rumored to be in the bidding for the storied baseball franchise.

Among them (see chart): shopping mall mogul Rick Caruso, private-equity billionaire Tom Barrack, Disney family investment chief Stanley Gold, supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, Lakers basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson and investment banker Jason Reese.

“With what’s now happened to the Dodger brand and history, people are realizing they need to bring back the tradition of local ownership,” said Jeff Marks, managing director of Premier Partnerships, an L.A. sports marketing company. “This has become a legacy play.”

Of course, the Dodgers franchise is also worth a lot more today than it was eight years ago when Forbes valued it at about $400 million. Last year, even with the alleged mismanagement of McCourt and the team plunging into bankruptcy, Forbes valued the team at $800 million.

That’s not including local cable and broadcast rights, which could bring revenue of tens of millions of dollars a year. That potential stream was not available back in 2003-04 when the Dodgers were last up for sale, according to Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp. Ltd. in Chicago, who has been following the bidding process closely. The new revenue stream makes any baseball team in a major media market much more appealing.

“The world of regional sports networks has changed dramatically in the last eight years and it’s the primary reason why so many more potential bidders have emerged this time around,” Ganis said.

Other factors that have brought out bidders include the lack of labor strife in Major League Baseball and the relatively strong financial condition of the sport, he added.

Bid process

Once all the initial bids are submitted this week, they will be passed to Blackstone Group, a New York investment and advisory firm that McCourt hired to manage the bidding process. Ganis expects that in the next few weeks a number of the bidding teams will combine forces so that they can more easily reach the expected bid level of $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion.

Others may simply drop out.

“You can generate cheap publicity just by saying you intend to bid on the Dodgers,” he said. “The key will be whether the bidders actually put their deposits down and follow through.”

Once it has culled through the initial bids, Blackstone will forward those that pass muster to MLB, which will review all the parties involved in each bid. Those bid teams that win league certification – which includes approval of three-fourths of the team owners – will then be cleared to participate in the auction.

The auction is tentatively set for the end of April, but Ganis said that with so many bid teams needing prequalification, that deadline could slip.

The bidding process is private, which means parties do not have to identify themselves. Several prospective bidders have made public statements, but others haven’t and some may slip under the radar entirely until the auction.

Technically, only the team rights, stadium and a lease for the parking lots are up for bid. But it’s likely that some of the bidders will also bid on the 300-plus acres that the parking lots sit on so that they can also get the development rights that go with the property.

In the mid-1990s, former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley had pushed for a football stadium on the current parking lot, but city leaders chose to go forward with an ultimately unsuccessful bid for a National Football League expansion team with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum site. Prospects for a football stadium there now are dimmer as AEG’s proposed downtown stadium next to the Los Angeles Convention Center moves forward. However, other sports-related entertainment and retail facilities remain possible.

Interested parties

McCourt’s announcement in early November of his intention to sell the team sparked a flurry of interest among local businessmen, many of whom had been eyeing the prospect of a sale for months. Among them are former Dodgers owner O’Malley; Fred Claire, former team general manager; Lakers star Johnson; and insurance company owner and Chicago White Sox executive Dennis Gilbert.

But with the sale price expected to easily top $1 billion at auction, all of these people had to round up investors. Former Dodgers greats Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser coaxed Joey Herrick, owner of Pacoima-based Natural Balance Pet Foods and several other unnamed private investors to join their bid; Johnson persuaded Guggenheim Partners investment company chief Mark Walter to join his bid; while Gilbert persuaded Imperial Capital Group Inc. chief Reese to team up with him.

Then there are the billionaires themselves. They may have the money, but not the baseball management experience, so they’ve had to bring that experience on board.

So far, the only local billionaire to publicly announce a partner is Caruso, who tagged former New York Yankees and Dodgers manager Joe Torre as his baseball expert. Barrack, Burkle, Eli Broad and Alan Casden have yet to announce any partners.

One nonlocal billionaire who’ has expressed bidding interest has a partner: Hedge fund king Steven Cohen is reportedly teaming up with fellow financier Steve Greenberg, who is the son of late Hall of Fame ballplayer Hank Greenberg.

In the end, though, it will all boil down to money.

“At the end of the day, the one with the best money deal will be chosen” as the new owners, Marks said.

Which L.A. Power Players Will Step Up to Bat?

A number of prominent L.A. business leaders may be preparing to bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Some are on the Business Journal’s list of Wealthiest Angelenos.

  • Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Stan Kasten, Mark Walter

Group Profile: Johnson, former Lakers star point guard-turned-businessman; Kasten, former Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves executive; Walter, chief executive of Guggenheim Partners. Trio has formed Guggenheim Baseball Management; Kasten would serve as head of baseball operations.

Net Worth: Johnson only local player; Forbes estimated net worth in 2010 at $500 million, ranking him No. 5 on list of Wealthiest Black Americans.

Bid Status: Reported last month in Los Angeles Times that group will be submitting bid.

  • Rick Caruso, Joe Torre

Group Profile: Caruso, shopping center magnate (Grove, Americana at Brand, others) and civic leader contemplating run for mayor; Torre, former manager of New York Yankees and Dodgers for three seasons; recently resigned from MLB executive post.

Net Worth: Caruso ranked No. 21 on last year’s Angelenos list with a net worth of $2 billion.

Bid Status: Announced last month that they would be submitting bid.

  • Steve Garvey, Orel Hershiser, Joey Herrick/others

Group Profile: Former Dodgers stars Garvey and Hershiser have teamed up with Herrick, president and owner of Pacoima-based Natural Balance Pet Foods, and other unnamed private investors. Garvey has long tried to put together a group to buy Dodgers; he was fired last year from the team for comments about McCourt.

Net Worth: None on Angelenos list.

Bid Status: Both Garvey and Hershiser have said publicly they would like to buy Dodgers, but they haven’t confirmed bid; Herrick independently confirmed he was part of group.

  • Dennis Gilbert, Larry King, Jason Reese, Randy Wooster

Group Profile: Gilbert, a former sports agent, current Chicago White Sox executive and insurance company co-owner, has long expressed desire to buy team; bid unsuccessfully for Texas Rangers in 2010. Former CNN talk show host and baseball fan King has reportedly joined Gilbert’s team. Major investors include investment bank Imperial Capital Group Inc. co-founders Jason Reese (chief executive) and Randy Wooster (president).

Net Worth: None on Angelenos list, though Reese's worth is at least in tens of millions of dollars.

Bid Status: Expected to submit bid.

  • Peter O’Malley

Profile: Former Dodgers owner sold team for $311 million to Fox.

Net Worth: Not ranked on Angelenos list.

Bid Status: Told Los Angeles Times in October he would like to be part of ownership team, but hasn’t surfaced yet as part of bid.

  • Disney Family and Stanley Gold

Group Profile: Gold is chief executive of Disney family’s investment company, Shamrock Holdings.

Net Worth: Disney heirs have slipped off Angelenos list.

Bid Status: Shamrock confirmed this month that it was in talks to form investment team to place bid.

  • Fred Claire/BCH 99

Group Profile: Former Dodgers General Manager Claire was with Dodgers organization for over 30 years. Leading team is Ben Hwang, former Dodgers batboy who became senior executive at Carlsbad biotechnology company Life Technologies Corp. Also on team: former Oakland Athletics President Andy Dolich, former Forum Sports Entertainment President Joe Heitzler and sports production company executive Paul Kalil, as well as Charles Lee, partner in the Nixon Peabody LLP law firm in Boston. Investment group named BCH 99.

Net Worth: None on Angelenos list.

Bid Status: Expected to submit bid.

  • Tom Barrack Jr.

Profile: Founder and chief executive of Santa Monica-based private-equity real estate firm Colony Capital and savvy real estate investor. Colony formerly controlled French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain. Barrack offered financing package to McCourt in June but McCourt rejected offer.

Net Worth: No. 32 on Angelenos list with estimated net worth of $1.38 billion.

Bid Status: Los Angeles Times reported this month that Barrack was “interested in pursuing the Dodgers.” Has not been named as part of any bidding team.

  • Ron Burkle

Profile: Billionaire supermarket magnate who owns L.A.-based Yucaipa Cos. private-investment firm; was said to be in running when Fox put team up for sale in 2004. Co-owner of NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

Net Worth: Burkle ranked No. 5 on the Angelenos list with

estimated net worth of $4.3 billion.

Bid Status: Sent out e-mail statement in November saying he “would be proud to be part of (the team’s) future,” but has not publicly joined bidding group.

  • Eli Broad

Profile: Billionaire philanthropist who co-founded KB Home and grew SunAmerica into insurance giant, has put his stamp on downtown Los Angeles. Put in last-minute offer to buy Dodgers from Fox in 2004.

Net Worth: Broad ranks No. 2 on the Angelenos list with estimated net worth of $6.3 billion.

Bid Status: Though his name has surfaced frequently as potential bidder, has not publicly indicated he plans to participate in bid.

  • Alan Casden

Profile: Beverly Hills billionaire developer bid for the Dodgers in 2003 but bid rejected as his firm was investigated for illegal campaign contributions; one company executive and 13 subcontractors were ultimately indicted. Recently, Casden has suffered setbacks, losing control of several properties while locked in dispute with his business partners.

Net Worth: Ranked No. 12 on Angelenos list with net worth estimated at $2.6 billion, but since then his net worth has declined.

Bid Status: Los Angeles Times reported this month that Casden’s name has been submitted to Major League Baseball for consideration in the bidding process.

Other Potential Bidders:

  • Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison, No. 3 on the Forbes 400 list, with estimated net worth of $33 billion.

  • Hedge fund manager Steven Cohen, No. 35 on the Forbes 400 list, with estimated net worth of $9.3 billion. In partnership with Steve Greenberg.

  • Paychex founder Tom Golisano, with estimated net worth of $1.3 billion.

  • Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, No. 171 on Forbes 400 list, with estimated net worth of $2.3 billion.

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