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For the Dodgers, contrasts in owners could not be more startling

March 29, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Magic Johnson is at ease in the spotlight, unlike Frank McCourt.
Magic Johnson is at ease in the spotlight, unlike Frank McCourt. (Nick Ut / Associated Press )

Are you ready for the stark contrast in the Dodgers’ ownership groups? Maybe I should ask if you’re ready for the value of your IRA to quadruple.

It is hard to imagine more contrasting owners than the guy who is leaving and the group that is readying to replace him.

Frank McCourt never appeared at ease in the spotlight. He always looked sweaty and nervous and uncomfortable. Like at any moment, he might be exposed.

He went through more image-makers than a presidential candidate. It was truly stunning. And some excellent people, too.

Of course, if you’re an image-maker it helps to figure out exactly what image you’re supposed to be promoting. Frank and Jamie, just the lovely couple next door! To the joints next to the Playboy Mansion. No one could ever effectively figure an image out.

Magic Johnson never needed anyone to create his image. He’s as genuine as a sunrise. Now, it’s not Frank’s fault that on the charisma scale Magic is a 100, and Frank’s just a little less than that. But the spotlight has always been home to Magic. He steps into it as easily as Matt Kemp into a fastball. Light beams more from him than on him.

So right away, it’s two very different worlds, not that it stops there.

What McCourt specialized in was taking money out of the Dodgers. Major League Baseball accused him of "looting" at least $189 million from the team. He was completely underfunded from the moment he first stepped into Dodger Stadium. He cut payroll. He mismanaged the franchise so badly, he embarrassingly took it into bankruptcy.

Magic’s group is led financially by Guggenheim Partners, which controls over $125 billion in assets. Safe to say, it is not underfunded. They paid a record $2.15 billion for the Dodgers. They are not spending that kind of money to field a team that doesn’t compete for a championship.

It is an opposite world from McCourt. Not that he didn’t want to win. I’m sure he did. You make more money on a team that wins. But the new owners are not going to put making-money first, if they make any at all for quite some time. That’s not why they’re here, although Guggenheim didn’t create that kind of wealth by being financially ignorant.

And by the way, I’m tired of people giving McCourt all this credit for making the organization financially viable again (you know, before he took it into bankruptcy). Sure he did. He did it by raising the prices of parking, food, concessions, and particularly tickets. He almost chased the middle class away. He splashed advertising all over Dodger Stadium. Applause all around.

It’s repulsive that McCourt showed up without putting a penny of his own money into purchasing the team, disgraced the franchise and is now going to exit with $1 billion. As Riverside Press-Enterprise columnist Gregg Patton commented, the irony is McCourt finally has enough money to go buy a baseball team.

When he heads out, he can look back at the group arriving and see a reverse image.

Now there’s a contrast to cherish.

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