- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — One Los Angeles institution is buying another.

A group that includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday night to buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record $2 billion.

The price would shatter the mark for a sports franchise. Stephen Ross paid $1.1 billion for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2009, and in England, Malcolm Glazer and his family took over the Manchester United soccer club in 2005 in a deal then valued at $1.47 billion.

Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would become the controlling owner.


The deal, revealed about five hours after Major League Baseball owners approved three finalists for an intended auction, is one of several steps toward a sale of the team by the end of April. It is subject to approval in federal bankruptcy court.

“I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles,” Johnson said in a statement.

As part of the agreement, the Dodgers said McCourt and “certain affiliates of the purchasers” would acquire the land surrounding Dodger Stadium, including its parking lots, for $150 million.

“If they invested that much money, I’m sure they’ll invest to get us a winner,” said Tommy Lasorda, the Dodgers‘ retired Hall of Fame manager. “I wish them all the luck, and I admire them. I know both of them. I know Magic from the day he came into Los Angeles as a basketball player for the Lakers.”

The acquiring group, called Guggenheim Baseball Management, has several other investors, among them Mandalay Entertainment chief executive Peter Guber, Guggenheim Partners president Todd Boehly and Bobby Patton, who operates oil and gas properties among his investments. Kasten is the former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.

“I am truly honored to have partnered with such talented individuals and to be associated with the Dodgers organization,” Walter said. “We look forward to building upon the legacy of the Dodgers and providing long-term stability to one of the most revered franchises in baseball.”

The 52-year-old Johnson played 13 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA championships and three MVP awards in a Hall of Fame career.

He retired from the NBA in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He briefly came out of retirement during the 1995-96 season and had a short stint coaching the Lakers. Since leaving basketball, he has been very successful in business, investing in movie theaters, a production company and restaurants.

He has also been an activist in the fight against HIV.

“I’m upset he didn’t cut me in,” current Lakers star Kobe Bryant said. “I’m going to have to talk to him about that.”

McCourt paid $430 million in 2004 to buy the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that include the parking lots, from the Fox division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., a sale that left the team with about $50 million in cash at the time. The team’s debt stood at $579 million as of January, according to a court filing, so McCourt stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars even after a $131 million divorce payment to former wife Jamie, taxes and legal and banking fees.

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