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DODGERS SALE

Dodgers' Magic Johnson: 'You'll see the team invest money'

He, Stan Kasten and Mark Walter, all presumptive new owners of the baseball team, take a look ahead in an interview with The Times.

March 28, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • Magic Johnson will invest millions of his own into buying the Dodgers, but how much time will he invest?
Magic Johnson will invest millions of his own into buying the Dodgers, but… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

NEW YORK — For Magic Johnson and his partners, a long day and a surreal night spilled into the wee hours of the morning.

Johnson and Co. awoke Tuesday morning as one of three remaining bidders for the Dodgers, with a final auction set to start Wednesday. Baseball's owners approved all three bidders Tuesday afternoon.

Frank McCourt then threw a curveball. The Johnson group's last offer was so much more lucrative than the others that McCourt wanted to take it right then and there. The attorneys on both sides hurriedly completed the documents, the court-appointed mediator blessed the deal, and McCourt congratulated the winners.

Stan Kasten, the Dodgers' incoming president, was there. So was Mark Walter, the chief executive of Guggenheim Partners and the money man in the deal. So too was Lon Rosen, an advisor to Johnson for decades and McCourt's first marketing chief with the Dodgers.

McCourt fired Rosen after one year. But, for $2.15 billion, bygones. McCourt gave Rosen a big hug.

The Johnson team adjourned at 2 a.m., for a celebration at P.J. Clarke's, a century-old Manhattan saloon. A few hours later, the team sat down for an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

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Johnson's Lakers featured the star-studded cast of "Showtime." Kasten, former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, never has signed a player to a $100-million contract. Johnson did not shy away from comparisons to the New York Yankees, baseball's biggest spenders.

Johnson: "Other teams are doing it. It's not just the Yankees. The Angels invested a lot of money into Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. You see what the Tigers just did with Prince Fielder. Teams are investing. That's what you do when you put a winning team on the field. We're not going to be any different from those teams.

"Also, we would love to copy the Yankees' success. If you're saying, 'Do we want to be the Yankees?,' the answer is yes. We want to win the World Series. We do want to win."

Kasten: "You just gave Scott Boras his speech for next October!"

Johnson: "You'll see the team invest money. But Stan will have his plan, and Mark and I will support that plan."

Kasten: "Nothing good happens without scouting and player development foundation. We understand that is Job 1 for any team — and particularly for us.

"But we also recognize it is Los Angeles. We recognize the history. We recognize the expectations. We recognize what our fans deserve. We don't plan to wait for 25 players to grow into our uniform."

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Johnson will invest millions of his own into buying the Dodgers, but how much time will he invest?

Johnson: "I'm going to be out in the community, selling the team and selling the plan. When Stan sets the plan, we're going to execute on it. Mark and I will make sure the business of the Dodgers gets handled.

"If the players need to talk to me about anything, I'll be there. My door is always open. I'll have an office there, and I'll be working there daily."

Kasten: "Daily? I'll hold you to that!"

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The new owners are scheduled to take over May 1, so free agents and trades will have to wait. Will the front-office executives remain in place for the rest of the season?

Kasten: "For sure. I go in assuming everyone is doing their job properly. The problems that have been reported over the last few years have to do with organizational problems. I look forward to spending time with everyone and seeing how I can help them.

"I think the duties of a president are to make sure everything is organized, to make sure you have the right people in the right boxes, and to get people the resources they need to do their job. Resources means money, but it also means support. It means time. I think, with those things, the people now there can be successful. I don't have any plans to come in and change things right now."

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What about renovations to Dodger Stadium?

Walter: "We don't have anything specific. We are open to and will rigorously consider anything and everything that is going to make the fan experience better."

Johnson: "You got a man in Stan who built two stadiums."

Kasten: "And a pretty cool arena." (Turner Field and Philips Arena in Atlanta, and Nationals Park in Washington.)

Johnson: "He knows what the fan experience should be like. We're excited to lean on him to make sure the fan experience is great, to make sure that they get from their cars to their seats and back to their cars safe, and that they have an incredible time."

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Will fans see parking structures in the Dodger Stadium parking lot?

Kasten: "There are none on the drawing board."

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McCourt previously has proposed parking structures. The sale allows him to share ownership of the parking lots, with any development subject to the approval of both McCourt and the new owners. How concerned should fans be about what might happen to their iconic ballpark?

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