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Broad Confirms Role in Bid to Buy Dodgers

L.A. billionaire joins offer led by New Yorker. Control of cable channel remains a sticking point.

March 21, 2003|Sallie Hofmeister | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles billionaire and philanthropist Eli Broad for the first time acknowledged his interest in buying the Los Angeles Dodgers and said Thursday that he hoped a deal could be struck with the baseball team's owner, News Corp.

Broad is the first Los Angeles figure to join an investor group led by New York sports executive David Checketts, who has offered to pay News Corp. $600 million for the team, its stadium and an 80% interest in the regional cable channel that airs the team's games.

In a statement to The Times on Thursday, Broad explained his reasons for backing Checketts, whom Broad has known for several years: "I am interested because of my love for Los Angeles, my interest in revitalizing downtown and for recognizing the need for Los Angeles-based ownership."

Some have speculated that a Dodgers purchase could involve a real estate deal that would move the team to a downtown site and lead to the development of hilltop homes at Chavez Ravine. But Broad said through a spokeswoman that he had no "hidden agenda" and was not planning to move the team from its current home.

Broad's involvement adds significant credibility to the Checkett group's bid, according to officials at Major League Baseball, which received financial documents from the 69-year-old Los Angeles powerbroker this week, as required by the league from all potential investors.

"I am hopeful that a deal will be consummated," Broad said in the statement.

A deal, however, remains far from certain. The Checketts group's bid is contingent on its giving the buyers control of a related cable TV channel, Fox Sports Net 2, but News Corp. would prefer to keep the lucrative network within its grip.

Nevertheless, sources said Thursday that News Corp. and Checketts were talking about ways the sports channel could be part of a deal. News Corp. is looking for guarantees that would keep the channel from falling into the hands of one of its rivals, such as the Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN, or a cable operator such as Comcast Corp., which is interested in owning regional sports channels.

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