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McCourt throws in towel, will sell Dodgers

Los Angeles DodgersFrank McCourt will participate in a court-supervised sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium and associated businesses, ending a standoff with Major League Baseball over the future of the franchise.

The announcement was made last night and follows months of legal wrangling over McCourt’s attempts to sell future media rights in an effort to keep the team alive today. A joint statement from both was issued early this morning:

“The Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball announced that they have agreed today to a court supervised process to sell the team and its attendant media rights in a manner designed to realize maximum value for the Dodgers and their owner, Frank McCourt. The Blackstone Group LP will manage the sale process.”

For McCourt to break even on his purchase of the Dodgers from News Corp. in 2003, the sale will need to fetch $1 billion or so. That’s not out of the realm of possibility. The Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field was sold for $850 million to the Tom Ricketts family in 2009. However, there’s more upside with the Dodgers and particularly with Dodger Stadium — upside that originally attracted McCourt, a real-estate developer, in the first place, buying the team and ballpark for $430 million. There’s plenty of land surrounding Dodger Stadium, land that could be used for future development without impacting the game operations.(It does say something about how Frank and Jamie McCourt ran the Dodgers: it will take a billion dollars for them to break even on assets they originally bought for $430 million.)

But putting a billion-dollar price tag on the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium does limit the number of potential bidders for the team. You can bet Mark Cuban’s name will pop up; we’re guessing real-estate development would bore him, but he’s enough of a celebrity hound to want to be at one of the county’s leading celebrity hubs. (He’s already shooting down speculation, saying a billion-dollar price tag is too high for him.) Businessmen Ron Burkle and Alan Casden could also be factors; both have pursued sports franchises in the past, with Burkle holding a minority share of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Another name that could come up: Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, who lives and works in Los Angeles. Of course, there will be many others popping up, so selling at auction is a smart move.

The goal is to close the auction so a new owner can be place for the beginning of the 2012 season. MLB will obviously play a large role in the auction process, with all potential owners vetted before they’re allowed to make a bid, a la the Texas Rangers auction process last year.

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