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Report: Magic Johnson’s group leads all bidders with $1.6 billion for Dodgers

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Magic Johnson (left) might be on the verge of buying the Dodgers from Frank McCourt. (AP)

After two parties were cut Tuesday, we're down to the Final Five bidders for the Los Angeles Dodgers, so it's semi-appropriate that the group headed by NBA legend Magic Johnson has made the biggest offer — $1.6 billion — so far. That's what reporter Mike Ozanian of Forbes Magazine writes, citing an anonymous source close to the process.

That's not to say Johnson purchasing the Dodgers will be, to quote late broadcaster Chick Hearn, a slam dunk. Not with "billionaire hedge fund titan" Steve Cohen still in the running:

[T]he owners were extremely impressed with the make up of Cohen's bid, according to my source, which was $1.4 billion but included an astounding $900 million of equity. "There were five strong bids," said the source, who did not have permission to speak of the negotiations publicly. The lowest bid from the five groups was $1.3 billion.

"An astounding $900 million of equity" means, I think, his own money. But Larry Bird was a head-fake titan, and Magic frequently beat him.

As appealing as all that cash must sound, Major League Baseball and the Dodgers could do a lot worse than Johnson, who would bring along longtime sports exec Stan Kasten as his baseball brain. Kasten might not be the end-all, but he's got the best baseball pedigree of anyone still in the running. Magic was one of the best point guards in history with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he's been just as formidable as a businessman.

MLB probably couldn't have done worse than Frank McCourt, the current owner who sent the team into bankruptcy and disgrace but — through a head-shaking agreement with the league — still would control a lease on all of Dodger Stadium's parking lots after the sale is completed. It's funny (and not in the "ha-ha" way) that he wants to throw out legal claims by fan Bryan Stow that McCourt should take some responsibility for the life-threatening beating Stow took in a Dodger Stadium parking lot in 2011. That McCourt wants to continue profiting from the parking lots but won't take responsibility for fan security tells you all you need to know about him.

But we haven't come to bury the guy who nearly ran the Dodgers into the ground, but to praise the person who is the leader down the stretch to revive them. The process of selling the Dodgers has seemed painfully slow, but McCourt must pick a winner by April 1 and complete the sale by April 30. It'll all be over soon.

And then, we can hope, it's time for the Magic show.

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