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Rick Caruso, Joe Torre withdraw bid to buy Dodgers

Caruso and Torre say in a letter to Major League Baseball that they are withdrawing their bid because of Frank McCourt's refusal to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the deal.

February 23, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
(Los Angeles Times )

Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre have withdrawn a joint bid to buy the Dodgers.

Caruso and Torre cited owner Frank McCourt's refusal to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale, according to a letter, dated last Friday, that the men sent to Major League Baseball. The Times obtained a copy of the letter Thursday.

Caruso and Torre would reenter the bidding if McCourt would agree to sell the parking lots, people familiar with the sale process but not authorized to publicly speak about it said. McCourt has told people he has at least one bid in which the buyer would let him retain ownership of the parking lots.

Caruso and other bidders thought the purchase of the lots would be negotiable. However, in a recent meeting with Caruso, McCourt said he intends to keep the lots and develop them, according to the people familiar with the sale process.

McCourt and his advisors think the Dodgers can sell for at least $1.5 billion, even without the land. But at least one bid group discounted its offer by more than $300 million to account for the exclusion of the land, according to a person familiar with the process.

Nine bidders are thought to still be involved, including groups led by Magic Johnson and veteran baseball executive Stan Kasten; East Coast investment titan Steven Cohen; and New York media executive Leo Hindery and Tom Barrack, chairman of Santa Monica-based Colony Capital.

McCourt divided the Dodgers and the parking lots into separate entities in 2005, with the approval of Major League Baseball. The Dodgers are in bankruptcy, but the McCourt entity that controls the parking lots is not.

The sale agreement between McCourt and MLB specifically permits him to retain the lots — and build parking structures on them if he chooses.

The new owner of the Dodgers would inherit a lease for the parking lots — at $14 million per year, with increases starting in 2015 — and a separate loan that McCourt has said requires the team to play at Dodger Stadium until at least 2030.

Torre, who managed the Dodgers from 2008 to 2010, resigned as an executive vice president at MLB in order to join Caruso in the bidding.

Caruso is perhaps best known for developing the Grove, the Los Angeles shopping and entertainment complex adjacent to Farmers Market. His spokesman had denied that Caruso bid on the Dodgers for the purpose of acquiring and developing the parking lots.

Caruso explored ways to improve parking and traffic at Dodger Stadium, one of the people said, and ultimately decided he could not control the fan experience without control of the parking lots.

"We felt that operationally it would be impossible to effectively manage baseball operations having the parking lots that surround the stadium under separate ownership," Caruso and Torre wrote in their letter to Rob Manfred, the MLB executive representing the league in the Dodgers' sale.

"We believed that during the bid process we would have the opportunity to buy the lots. It has now been made clear to us by Mr. McCourt that the lots are not and will not be for sale."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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