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DODGER SALE ON VERGE OF COMPLETION

A New Blueprint

Big Changes Expected in L.A.'s Front Office

January 29, 2004|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

With today's expected approval of Frank McCourt as the new owner of the Dodgers, Bob Daly's four-year reign as chairman and chief executive of the team is about to come to an end. That much is certain.

Whether the procession of front-office employees following Daly out the door is as long as a Dodger Stadium concession-stand line remains to be seen, but significant changes are expected in the coming days, weeks and months.

Bob Graziano, who has been with the organization for 18 years, probably will be ousted or resign as team president, a position he has held for six years, General Manager Dan Evans' status is tenuous, at best, and Manager Jim Tracy's days could be numbered.

Former San Francisco Giant executive vice president Corey Busch, who served as McCourt's point man in negotiations to buy the team, is expected to have a prominent role in a restructured Dodger front office, most likely as president or the head of business operations. Duffy Jennings, vice president of public relations for the Giants from 1980-92 and another McCourt confidant, is expected to join the front office in some capacity.

Oakland Athletic General Manager Billy Beane and former Seattle Mariner general manager Pat Gillick are considered front-runners to become general manager if McCourt decides to replace Evans, who is entering the final year of a contract and nearing the end of an off-season in which he has been roundly criticized for doing little to bolster the team's anemic offense. Tracy is also entering the final year of his contract, putting him on shaky ground.

"Every organization goes through this when there is a change of ownership," said Derrick Hall, the Dodgers' senior vice president of communications. "There's an evaluation process, and a lot of decision making goes into how the organizational structure will be changed.

"The new owner needs to decide whether certain employees and executives will be retained. On the other hand, the [current] executives also need to determine whether they want to remain a part of the executive team after becoming more familiar with [McCourt's] business plan."

If Busch takes over as president, Graziano is gone. A team source said he was not interested in remaining with the Dodgers in a diminished capacity.

But even if Busch assumes a lesser role, perhaps replacing Kris Rone, the current vice president of business operations, a Dodger source said Graziano would resign out of loyalty to Rone, who has helped the Dodgers increase revenues about 50% in the last five years, from $100 million a year in 1998 to $150 million a year in 2003.

Likewise, if Jennings were to replace Hall, the highly respected Dodger communications executive who oversees the team's public relations, broadcasting and community-affairs departments, Graziano probably would resign out of loyalty to Hall.

"I don't know what the immediate future holds for me," Graziano said. "Until Frank and Jamie [McCourt, Frank's wife] get in here and lay out their plan, their vision for the organization, it's premature to jump to any conclusions."

Most have concluded since McCourt reached agreement in October to purchase the Dodgers from News Corp. for $430 million that Busch, 53, would be part of the new front-office team.

Busch, who in the 1970s served as press secretary for then-San Francisco mayor George Moscone, is remembered as something of a villain in the Bay Area for acting as former Giant owner Bob Lurie's front man in the 1992 negotiations to sell the team to a Florida group that was set to move the Giants to St. Petersburg, Fla.

A $115-million deal was struck with the Florida group, and the Giants were all but gone before a group headed by Peter Magowan swooped in at the eleventh hour to buy the Giants and keep them in San Francisco.

Busch was hired by Lurie in 1978 primarily because the owner thought Busch's political connections would help the Giants win approval for a new publicly funded stadium to replace Candlestick Park.

But during his 14 years with the Giants, 10 as executive vice president, all four of the new-stadium campaigns Busch engineered were overwhelmingly rejected by voters, in San Jose in 1992, Santa Clara County in 1990 and San Francisco in 1989 and '87.

Busch left baseball in 1992 and became chairman and chief executive of Golden Gate Productions, an independent television production and sports marketing company that folded in the mid-1990s.

In 1998, Busch was retained as AmericaOne's director of development and sponsor relations, overseeing public relations and marketing for the San Francisco-based yacht's 2000 America's Cup effort.

Busch, a UCLA graduate, continued in the consulting field, and in the summer of 2000, Major League Baseball hired Busch to investigate about 10 markets, including Portland, Ore., Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, Va., as potential sites for baseball expansion or relocation franchises.

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