Billionaire philanthropist Patrick Soon-Shiong, left, shakes hands… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)
The field of Dodgers bidders was cut to three Friday, and a winner could be identified as soon as next week.
The three finalists include a group led by hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen and Los Angeles billionaire and philanthropist Patrick Soon-Shiong; a group led by Magic Johnson and veteran baseball executive Stan Kasten; and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
The cut was confirmed by two people familiar with the sale process but not authorized to comment.
Major League Baseball owners are expected to vote on the three remaining bidders early next week. Final negotiations then would take place with Frank McCourt and Blackstone Advisory Partners, the investment bank brokering the sale.
McCourt has agreed to identify a winning bidder by April 1, although he has until April 6 to present a sale agreement to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Joseph Farnan, the retired federal judge serving as the court-appointed mediator, has asserted his control of the sale process at a time when relations are believed to be strained between MLB and Blackstone.
The Dodgers are expected to command a record price for a North American sports franchise. The current record is $1.1 billion, set when the Miami Dolphins were sold in 2009.
McCourt was offered between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion in the most recent round of bids. However, negotiations have not taken place, and it is uncertain how the purchase price might be affected if McCourt refuses to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale. McCourt has said he intends to sell the team but keep the lots, in accordance with his rights under his settlement with MLB.
Dodgers spokesman Robert Siegfried declined to comment Friday. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney did not return a call for comment. Bloomberg first identified the three finalists.
Blackstone made its first cut Jan. 27, excusing Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and veteran baseball executive Dennis Gilbert in narrowing the field of bidders to 11.
Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley subsequently withdrew from the bidding, as did a group led by Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre. On Friday, Commissioner Bud Selig restored Torre as MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, the position Torre left Jan. 4 to pursue the Dodgers bid. In Torre's absence, Selig did not fill the position.
Jared Kushner, the publisher and owner of the New York Observer and son-in-law of Donald Trump, withdrew after MLB informed him of concerns about the financial structure of his bid. Beverly Hills developer Alan Casden was rejected by MLB, as was a group led by former YES Network chief Leo Hindery and Tom Barrack, chairman of Santa Monica-based Colony Capital.
Blackstone rejected separate bids by Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley and Los Angeles investor Tony Ressler, a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. However, Heisley and Ressler joined forces to re-enter the bidding.
The Heisley/Ressler bid was one of two rejected Friday, along with a bid by Los Angeles civic leader and investor Stanley Gold and the family of the late Roy Disney.