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League Contacted on Dodger Bid

March 04, 2003|Sallie Hofmeister and Ross Newhan | Times Staff Writers

New York sports executive David Checketts has provided preliminary information to Major League Baseball about his progress in financing a bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball sources said Monday.

After months of talks with Dodger owner News Corp. about buying the club, Checketts on Monday made his initial contact with the league. Baseball sources saw the outreach as an indication of the seriousness of the negotiations.

They confirmed that influential financier George Soros has agreed to back Checketts' bid. It is unclear exactly how much Soros is putting into the deal, but several Wall Street sources said the amount is less than $100 million -- only 16% of the total.

Checketts must submit a formal application with the league before he can review the Dodgers' financial books.

Checketts has had trouble putting together financing for his bid because it is unclear whether News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch would sell the related cable channel that airs Dodger games as part of the package. Checketts has made the purchase of a majority stake in the network a condition of any deal. Cable rights are considered the key to making a return on an investment in a baseball club because most, including the Dodgers, lose money. The Dodgers lost about $40 million last year.

Sources close to the negotiations say Checketts is trying to raise $320 million from investors and plans to borrow an additional $300 million from banks to finance his deal. They said he has lined up Soros and a small investment fund as equity investors, but still is more than $200 million short of his goal. Two banks -- J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and FleetBoston Financial Corp. -- have agreed to be his lenders. Checketts is looking to bring in one more bank.

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