A general view of Dodger Stadium is seen during a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Peter O'Malley, former Dodgers owner, is putting together a group to bid on the team. One of his partners comes from overseas.
The O'Malley family's association with the Dodgers began in Brooklyn in the 1930s; Walter O'Malley worked for the team then, purchased a minority interest in 1944, and got controlling interest in the club in 1950.
Upon Walter's death in 1979, the family's ownership continued through Walter's son Peter This continued until 1998, when Peter O'Malley sold the Dodgers to Fox for somewhere north of $300 million, at the time the largest amount paid for a U.S. sports franchise.
In the 49 seasons from 1950 through 1998, the Dodgers were the crown jewel of the National League. They made the postseason 17 times, were in 13 World Series, and won six World Championships.
Since then, under the ownership of Fox and later the McCourts, the Dodgers have been ... well, let's charitably say "less successful". They have made the playoffs only four times since 1999 and not returned to the World Series, and the financial troubles of the McCourts are well chronicled; those troubles have now forced the sale of the team through a bankruptcy court.
It's been well-known that Peter O'Malley, now 74 years old, has been trying to put together a group to buy the Dodgers. The Los Angeles Times now reports that O'Malley might have found a partner to help finance his bid:
Peter O'Malley's bid to buy back the Dodgers is supported by financing from the South Korean conglomerate E-Land, two people familiar with the Dodgers' sale process said Monday.
If the O'Malley bid is successful, E-Land Chairman Song Soo Park will become a major investor in the Dodgers, one of the people said.
The ownership group also would have investors from Los Angeles. O'Malley has had discussions with Tony Ressler, a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and co-founder of Los Angeles-based Ares Capital, according to a person familiar with the talks.
The article points out that foreign ownership wouldn't be an issue for MLB, as Nintendo owns a majority interest in the Mariners (incidentally, when the Mariners and Athletics open the 2012 season in Japan, it will be the first time Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi sees the Mariners play in person).
If the O'Malley group's bid is successful, he'd become the president of the team, the same title he held from 1970 through 1998. Having a Korean company as a major investor in the Dodgers would likely raise that team's profile in that country; there was only one active major leaguer (Shin-Soo Choo) from Korea in 2011, but there are dozens more in the minor leagues and this would put the Dodgers at the forefront of developing talent there.
What's most remarkable about tha Los Angeles Times article, though, is this:
Frank McCourt, the Dodgers' departing owner, expects the team to sell for at least $1.5 billion. That would be almost double the previous record price for a major league club, set when the Ricketts family bought the Chicago Cubs for $845 million in 2009.
One point five billion dollars. Does that include half the city of Los Angeles as well as the team?
McCourt is desperate for money, but it doesn't seem as if the Dodgers would go for double the amount the Cubs did -- the Cubs sale included Wrigley Field, and it's not clear whether that $1.5 billion tab would include Dodger Stadium and its parking lots (if it did, it might be closer to McCourt's dream price).
There are eight groups still in the running for the Dodgers; several of them have longtime ties to the city or the team. But the idea of the O'Malley family returning the Dodgers to their former days of glory, especially with deep pockets from Asia backing them, has to appeal to the other MLB owners. It won't completely be up to them, because the bankruptcy court will have the final say. But if the O'Malley bid has solid financial backing, Peter O'Malley might just wind up running the Dodgers again, soon.