Thursday, October 14, 2010

Want to own the Dodgers?

Several names have been mentioned as potential suitors for the Dodgers, in the event Frank McCourt decides to sell. Mind you, he's very adamant the club is not, and will not be, for sale. Still, you probably know most of the names. There's Dennis Gilbert and Eli Broad, two old favorites. Mark Cuban is always popular. Steve Soboroff and Tim Leiweke are not talked about as much, but I've heard them as potential dark-horses.

But how about you? The Daily News' Tom Hoffarth explains:
The recent very public divorce proceedings embarrassed Angelenos to no end. Despite doing a lot of stadium renovation and laying out plans for more mini-mall-like expansion, the McCourts' ultimate treatment of the team, the city and its fans appears to be a pretty clear-cut case of L.A. identity theft. And we want it back.


Janice Hahn, the L.A. city councilwoman whose family investment in the Dodgers goes back to rolling out the blue carpet for the team when it arrived in 1958, has already stepped up.

Hahn issued a press release Oct. 1, calling on the U.S. Congress to reconsider the "Give Fans A Chance Act," something that Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., has proposed at least twice in the past decade, but could not get passed.


She also emphasizes that this isn't proposing that the cash-strapped city buy the team, or that tax money be used.
Fun stuff, right? The premise is that you and I will lay out some of our money to buy a piece of the team. I see two threshold problems: First, while I'm certainly against using public money to make this happen, we must recognize that the same financial issues the state faces are affecting many of us, too. Simply put, the same way there are fewer billionaires ready to buy the Dodgers outright than there were a few years ago, there are also fewer civilians, as it were, prepared to lay out thousands for an interesting piece of paper.

The second problem, of course, is a technical one. It would be awfully tough to pull this off. Hoffarth gets us started:

There's nothing we can find in the Major League Baseball's Declaration of Ownership Independence that forbids public/fan operation of a team. Several sources have confirmed that. So, we're going with that premise.

Yet, as a privately held company, in cahoots with a legal oligopoly of antitrust-protected businessmen and women all watching each other's financial interests, the Dodgers simply can't be bought and sold like a corner liquor store. Any change in ownership needs approval of the eight-person MLB Ownership Committee.
That's one big problem. While there might be nothing that explicitly forbids public ownership of a Major League franchise, that approval process would seem to serve as a de facto prohibition, should MLB choose to use it as such. Baseball often has enough trouble reining in small ownership groups. Imagine how it feels about a group of thousands. Back to you, Tom:

Several MLB sources that wished to remain anonymous tell us the chances of a nonprofit organization owning any big-league team these days are pretty far-fetched. There are tax amortization rules in place, for example, that benefit individual owners who face financial losses. There's revenue sharing. There are all kinds of hurdles in place that probably wouldn't work with a nonprofit structure.
One of the several tracks on repeat during the McCourt trial was Jamie McCourt's supposed unwillingness to submit to the strictures of ownership: the personal guarantees, indemnifications, invasive background investigation, et cetera. The point is that Baseball, for reasons several and well-enumerated by Hoffarth and friend-of-the-site Maury Brown in the article, really likes keeping the club small and private. Full disclosure is not Baseball's strong suit.

I spoke to Hahn about this issue a few weeks ago, and mentioned the concept of a control person. She acknowledged that, in any effort to bring the Dodgers public, ultimate control (and responsibility) would have to lie not with the fans, but with some entity that would provide those guarantees, indemnifications, and the rest. That's among the numerous hurdles to implementation of public ownership of the Dodgers--very much a civic asset.

In the end, I agree with Brown and other observers who say that it won't--and probably can't--happen. The takeaway, in my opinion, is that we really do view the Dodgers as something much more than a business, and we would like whoever or whatever controls the Dodgers to feel the same. Nothing would be a purer solution than for the fans themselves to own the team, but that's unlikely for a host of reasons. Instead, we'll hope for the next best option: that whoever owns the Dodgers, McCourt or otherwise, reestablish a connection with the city that has been lost over the last decade.


  1. I believe the Green Bay Packers have been "fan-owned", since 1923 or thereabouts. It is under the guise of a non-profit with approximately 100,000 "shareholders". The NFL does not permit "corporate" ownership per se, but the Packers have an exemption, as their ownership structure was in place before these rules were adapted by other owners.

    Its my opinion that the vast majority of baseball owners will always and without fail act in their own perceived best interest first, last and always. And that interest is not necessarily in the best interest of the community, nor fans.

    When Horace Stoneham squandered SF Giants assets on some bogus land deals in Arizona, he came within a hair of selling the Giants to LaBattts Brewery in Canada following the 1975 season. I mention this only because, like now, the economy was a mess, and and like the current LA Dodger dilemma, there were few potential buyers. One of the local real estate guys (Bob Lurie) who inherited a ton of money from his father finally stepped in at the last minute with a little coaxing from Mayor Joe Alioto (yes, the Al Davis NFL anti-trust Alioto when the Raiders moved to LA) when he dug up a cattle broker in Phoenix to supply the remaining cash needed to meet Stoneham's asking price.

    I recall distinctly a very loud, long, and well-publicized, but ultimately and predictably futile effort by an adhoc committee of fans to form an ownership group modeled after the Green Bay Packers. It went nowhere of course. Multi-millionaire MLB owners were and are very particular about who gains admittance to their very exclusive club.

    It is even more exclusive now, since Selig and his cronies entered into their conjugal relationship with networks and cable systems.

    Councilwoman Hahn is either a cynic or a holy innocent if she is being truthfully serious about public ownership.

    The government may take over the board of General Motors and dictate wages for Bankers, but the irony of all of this, is that they cannot touch Selig's collection of billionaires collectively.

    I believe the only viable solution for everybody is as you suggest; make it extremely uncomfortable for these self-absorbed narcissists to continue their shell game with the Dodger franchise and force a sale.

    It seems that these folks are impervious to public pressure, as many of the insulated overly-rich are. Perhaps the justice system can grind out some justice for the average fan.

    Fox may have been tone deaf, but for them it was simply a business. For the McCourts they have used their litigate riches to purchase a trophy apparently for the sole purpose of self-aggrandizement.

    I'm no Dodger fan, but nobody but nobody deserves this kind of ownership. Both of these pigs need their faces figuratively slapped.

  2. "I'm no Dodger fan, but nobody but nobody deserves this kind of ownership. Both of these pigs need their faces figuratively slapped."

    I'm fine with someone just slapping them. Unless by "figuratively" you mean stripping them of ownership publicly in front of a packed house of Dodger fans so we can all laugh and point fingers.

  3. Almost certainly a public company would be run as the Green Bay Packers: a shareholder would own a pretty piece of paper with no voting rights.

  4. "Almost certainly a public company would be run as the Green Bay Packers: a shareholder would own a pretty piece of paper with no voting rights."

    I think this could actually have some merit. I may be too naive about how these things work, but corporations have owned MLB teams over and over again. FOX owned the Dodgers at one point. In theory, you could create a corporation, be it not-for-profit or not, have shareholders buy in (ala the Green Bay Packers) and then have a management structure of the corporation that would "run" the show. You could raise a ton of money. Let's say you sold 1 million shares at $1,000 each. That's a cool billion. How many fans would pony up a grand to own a share of the Dodgers? Not a million of them by any means, but how many affluent people would buy 100 shares? 1,000 shares? How many corporations? I think you could sell 1 million shares fairly quickly. The profits would be distributed as dividends, just as any other corporation.

    It would take someone a lot smarter than me to figure out the logistics of something like this, but I don't know how far fetched an idea this could actually be. You'd need to have a "name" attached. A "face" of the organization to head this thing up, be the point person within MLB and the Old Boys Club, but then it would be just like any other baseball organization.

    Who wants to get it started?

  5. @anonymous, 9:19am

    Yes. Your inference is correct. It would probably be worth 49.99 on Pay Per View just to watch the LA sheriffs dept. evict them from Dodger Stadium

    As much as some fans hate the Dodgers in the Bay Area, nobody seriously wants to see the McCourts continue to embarrass baseball.

    The McCourts are doing to the Dodgers, what the Yorks have done to the 49ers, and what Georgia Frontiere did to the Rams...made them a laughing stock. Nobody benefits from that.

  6. Imagine a scenario where the LA city government and members of the Congress, with populist backing from their constituents, go to MLB and say, "We want to discuss public ownership of the Dodgers."

    If I was MLB, I would at least have to listen. It is, first off, a good story and would be positively received by the public across the country. If Selig immediately said no, he'd receive hell. Second, those members of Congress can make life difficult for MLB and the owners. The Give Fans a Chance Act would be child's play compared to the amount of Congressional attention MLB could receive. It's in MLB's best interested to hear LA out if not directly work out a deal.

  7. Until then we go back to buying our Mega Millions lotto tickets...

  8. To the guy saying "they would listen because it's a nice story"......
    Selig never listened to the people who wanted to reinstate Buck Weaver of the 1919 White Sox scandal, even though they showed up at the All-Star game in Chicago, at the World Series in Chicago and even if the guy batted .324 in the Series.
    Ironically i learned they were called the "Black Sox" not because some threw the series, but because their cheap owner in an effort to cut back even more, refused to wash their uniforms anymore so they decided to just wear the same one every day without washing it.

  9. Read the second part of what I wrote. There's a difference between ignoring fans and pissing off Congress.

  10. I don't really care who owns the Dodgers, as long as its not the Mc-DIVORCE-Courts!

  11. What this divorce has done to me as a dodger fan is that from this point foward i wont support or follow the dodgers any longer as long as the mccourts own the team. The mccourts used the dodgers as there own personal piggy bank, and never once cared weather the dodgers won or lost they are hibitual liars and disgusting human beings.

  12. Dear Josh Fisher, I know having the fans owning the Dodgers sounds like a good idea. But if you really look deeper into it, it’s not really a great idea. I’ll give you 3 reasons why it’s not a good idea. For one, we don’t want to have THOUSANDS of people who say they will go all out for the team then become as greedy as the McCourt’s or like a lot of professional sports owners. Second, the team value will depreciate as we will have MILLIONS of people stating that they are part owner of the Dodgers. And third, it’s harder for a fan like me to get upset at a public owner then it is to blame a majority owner like Frank McCourt for the Dodgers TROUBLES.
    Best Regards,
    Dale Mascari

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