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.

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