Billionaire Ron Burkle teamed with franchise icon Mario Lemieux in buying… (Andrew McPherson )
Steve Garvey, one of the most popular players in Dodgers history, said Friday that he has teamed with billionaire business magnate Ron Burkle in an investment group that would like to buy the team.
Commissioner Bud Selig seized control of the Dodgers this week, dramatically increasing the chances the team eventually would be sold. In that event, Garvey said, he believes his baseball background and Burkle's business acumen could help the Dodgers reclaim their place among baseball's elite franchises.
"We want to bring the Dodgers back to their glory," Garvey said. "There was a Dodger way, but that way has drifted by the wayside."
Burkle teamed with franchise icon Mario Lemieux in buying the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999; the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Burkle has pursued the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals in recent years, according to press reports.
He said last week he might buy the NBA's Sacramento Kings, in support of that city's frantic effort to keep the team from moving to Anaheim. The Kings' owners said they would not sell the team.
Burkle, 58, has a home in Beverly Hills. Forbes estimates his net worth at $3.2 billion. At least two other local billionaires also have been reported to be preparing bids for the Dodgers: developer Alan Casden, who pursued the team when it was last up for sale, and financier Alec Gores, whose brother Tom bought the NBA's Detroit Pistons earlier this month.
Another NBA owner, Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, previously has expressed interest in the Dodgers. In an email Friday, Cuban declined to say whether he would be interested in the Dodgers — "They aren't for sale," he wrote — but said he had received numerous messages from Dodgers fans in the three days since Selig acted.
"Between tweets and emails, I couldn't count them all," Cuban wrote.
Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and Chicago White Sox executive Dennis Gilbert, all of whom live in the Los Angeles area, are expected to consider bidding should the Dodgers go up for sale. Attanasio told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he was "committed to Milwaukee"; Werner told the Boston Globe he had "no interest" in pursuing the Dodgers.
The Dodgers remained in limbo Friday, with Selig waiting until next week to appoint a trustee to run the team and owner Frank McCourt letting the week pass without initiating any legal action in response. Selig and McCourt each have retained attorneys for what the commissioner anticipates will be a lawsuit from McCourt.
Garvey previously told The Times he had assembled an investment group that twice last year offered what he called a "cash infusion" to McCourt.
McCourt declined the offers. He has pledged to maintain sole ownership of the Dodgers.
On Friday, one day after Dodgers vice chairman Steve Soboroff blasted Selig for his "irresponsible" takeover and criticized him for snubbing McCourt but assisting the owners of the financially troubled New York Mets, two people familiar with Selig's thinking said the commissioner drew a sharp distinction between the Dodgers and the Mets.
The Mets' owners addressed their cash need by putting a minority share of the team up for sale, while McCourt initially proposed a $200-million loan for a debt-plagued team, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the expected legal action. McCourt since has reached agreement on a $3-billion television contract with Fox, but he has not agreed to sell any part of the Dodgers.
Garvey said Friday that he has informed Major League Baseball that Burkle has joined his investment group. He said Burkle was unavailable for comment but had authorized Garvey to speak on his behalf.
Garvey said he has "six to eight" other investors in his group. He declined to identify them but said they were "very strong, very deep-rooted in Southern California," with some involved in the entertainment business.
Garvey, 62, was an eight-time All-Star for the Dodgers. He has driven in more runs than any player since the team moved to Los Angeles.
He was the National League's most valuable player in 1974, and he joined Ron Cey, Bill Russell and current Dodgers coach Davey Lopes in an infield that played together for 8 1/2 years.
Although the advent of free agency makes it unlikely a team could keep so many stars together for so long, Garvey said he believes the Dodgers should be able to keep a core of players together long enough for a fan to identify with them and invest emotionally in them.
"That would be my No. 1 goal," he said, "to bring back an environment where free agents want to come to Los Angeles and stay there a long time, and to build an even stronger minor league system."
If his group were to succeed in buying the Dodgers, Garvey said he would serve as managing general partner.
"It would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.