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Smulyan Seems Out of Dodger Sale Picture

May 15, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Radio entrepreneur Jeffrey Smulyan, the former Seattle Mariner owner who submitted a bid to purchase the Dodgers, was told this week that News Corp. will not sell the six television stations his media company was seeking as part of the deal, virtually killing his hopes of buying the team.

Smulyan has not officially withdrawn his offer for the Dodgers, but his expected retreat reaffirms what has been known for weeks: that Tampa Bay Buccaneer owner Malcolm Glazer is the clear favorite to buy the team.

A local television station reported late Tuesday night that a tentative agreement between Glazer and the Dodgers could be consummated in the coming days, but two sources close to negotiations said Wednesday that a deal is at least several weeks away from being reached.

Smulyan, according to an executive familiar with talks, was in intense negotiations with News Corp., which owns the Dodgers, up until Tuesday, when he was given final notification that Fox will not part with any TV stations.

Like New York sports executive Dave Checketts, who withdrew a $600-million offer for the Dodgers in April because News Corp. wouldn't part with one of its sports networks in the deal, Smulyan viewed the television assets as essential to an acquisition of the Dodgers because the team is losing money. Without the TV stations, it doesn't make sense for Smulyan to own the Dodgers, who have claimed losses of about $80 million over the last two years.

Los Angeles real estate tycoon Alan Casden is believed to be the high bidder for the Dodgers, with an offer of about $450 million for the franchise and the stadium, and Glazer's bid is believed to be in the $400-million range. Neither Casden nor Glazer has pursued the purchase of any Fox television stations.

But recent legal problems could prevent Casden from winning support from Major League Baseball owners, who must approve the transaction, while Glazer, who transformed the Buccaneers from a woebegone franchise in 1995 to Super Bowl champions in 2003, probably would receive unanimous support from owners.

There are some indications that News Corp. is negotiating exclusively with Glazer, but Casden remains hopeful of purchasing the Dodgers despite his long odds.

"I've had no conversations with the Dodgers in the last 72 hours," said Bob DuPuy, president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball. "As I said last week, the Glazers have been cleared to look at the [Dodger] books, but I don't know where they are in regard to the purchase.

"I was yelled at [presumably by Commissioner Bud Selig] for getting too far ahead of the process [last week], so I'd rather not comment any further now."

Glazer's attempt to buy the Dodgers received a considerable boost recently when NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the purchase wouldn't violate the league's cross-ownership rules.

Glazer, 74, is expected to buy the Dodgers for his son, Edward, who lives in Southern California and has been a point man in negotiations with News Corp., which bought the Dodgers from the O'Malley family for $311 million in 1998.

Times staff writer Ross Newhan contributed to this report.

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