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Real Estate Developer Sets Sights on Angels

March 19, 2003|Ross Newhan and Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writers

Real estate developer Frank H. McCourt Jr., who failed in a bid to buy the Boston Red Sox in 2001, is interested in pursuing ownership of the Angels.

Although theater impresarios James and Robert Nederlander are believed to remain at the forefront of bidding for the defending World Series champions, sources with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday that McCourt has expressed his interest to a top baseball official and is expected to meet soon with Commissioner Bud Selig.

McCourt was said to be traveling with his family and could not be reached. It is not certain whether he is one of the three bidders who have been identified by Lehman Brothers, the New York investment firm handling the sale, as the top candidates, but a high-ranking baseball official said, "Everything we hear about him is positive."

Also on Tuesday, officials in the commissioner's New York office received the financial resume of Los Angeles business mogul and philanthropist Eli Broad, adding what one official said was "considerable credibility" to David Checketts' $600-million bid to buy the Dodgers.

The filing by the 69-year-old Broad, whose net worth is estimated at $4.8 billion by Forbes Magazine, was the next step in his decision to become the first Los Angeles operator to join the Checketts' group, a decision that allowed Checketts to complete his financing.

It is not clear where talks between Checketts, who previously ran the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, and News Corps rest, but his demand to take control of Fox Sports Net 2, as well as managing Fox Sports West, could derail his offer if Rupert Murdoch remains opposed to yielding control of the two regional networks. The Dodgers alone are considered a money-losing proposition if the networks aren't included.

The status of the Angel sale is also unclear.

Although a source familiar with the process said that Lehman Brothers may not conduct a second round of bidding as originally planned, which could imply that the Nederlanders may be close to a deal, another person with knowledge of the situation described McCourt as a "sleeper candidate" and said nothing has been decided.

McCourt owns significant Boston property and his family has operated a heavy-construction company for four decades, according to a Boston Globe story at the time of the Red Sox auction.

Whether he has a group in place to finance his pursuit of the Angels isn't known, but he was not included on Forbes Magazine's most recent list of the 400 richest Americans, which required a net worth of $550 million, and he was not perceived in position to finance the purchase of the Red Sox on his own.

The Red Sox ultimately sold for $700 million, a price that included the New England Sports Network, while the price of the Angels is expected to be in the area of $180 million to $200 million.

Alabama businessman Donald Watkins and Mexican entrepreneur Carlos Peralta have submitted bids but are not considered serious candidates. Sources say Peter Ueberroth is interested in the Angels and the Dodgers but is not believed to be an official bidder in the Angels' auction -- a process he dislikes -- and may not have the financing to pursue the Dodgers, if there is competition at $600 million.

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Times staff writer Sallie Hofmeister contributed to this report.

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