December 02, 2011
Those of you reactionary types who were concerned that Larry King might buy the Dodgers, stage a power play and boot Vin Scully from the broadcast booth just received a good piece of news when it comes to potential celebrity owners.
Make that two good pieces of news.
The first bit is that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said on Thursday that he's interested in taking a look at one of the team's bid books as current owner Frank McCourt prepares to sell the team. The look-see doesn't require Cuban to place a bid on the team, but this is more than we expected after he previously said he wouldn't be interested in buying the team if it was going to sell for north of $1 billion (and it still very well could).
The second bit is that former Lakers star Magic Johnson is putting together a potential ownership group that includes former Braves and Nationals executive Stan Kasten and the backing of a high-powered financial services firm with assets of $125 billion.
Needless to say, Magic is not playing around.
"I am so hyped, I'm ready to start right now,'' said Johnson in a phone interview Friday morning. "The Dodgers have been so important to this community for so many years, for so many reasons. I've lived through it all like everyone else and I want to make them great again.''
Johnson is that rare former sports star whose business acumen has matched his athleticism. Since retiring from the Lakers in 1996, he has made millions in investments that have focused on rebuilding inner cities. His substantial portfolio includes Starbucks franchises and movie theaters and a piece of the Lakers, which he recently sold.
"The Dodgers are my next big thing," Johnson said. "This is not just millions of my money, this is dear to my heart. This is bringing back the brand for the people of Los Angeles."
We had a lot of fun with imagining a world in which Larry King is running the Los Angeles Dodgers. But we're being completely honest in saying that a Magic-led ownership group would be a godsend for the Dodgers. It'd be a godsend for baseball.
Yes, even more than Cuban — everyone's usual go-to franchise savior — would be.
We already stated this when Johnson hinted at his first smidgen of interest last spring, but Bug Selig and Co. have to be salivating at the mere thought of Johnson replacing McCourt atop the Dodger Stadium mount. The team would be passing from one of the least-liked men in Southern California to maybe the only individual that every Los Angeleno can agree on and baseball would pick up its first black owner in the process.
And not just any token figurehead, either, but one of the most country's most successful businessmen of any color and a guy who'd presumably have a significant stake in the venture. For a sport that is always trying to figure out how to improve its image among African-American youth, getting Magic Johnson into the fold would be one of the best trump cards imaginable.
The biggest concern, of course, was going to be whether or not a basketball man would be able to identify the right baseball men to work with, but that seems to have been solved with Johnson joining forces with Kasten. There's obviously a lot of miles to be traveled before we seeing Magic take the keys from McCourt, but this is one heck of a start.
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