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Frank McCourt: The gift that keeps on giving

September 20, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Frank McCourt with Steve Soboroff during their bankrupt days together with the Dodgers.
Frank McCourt with Steve Soboroff during their bankrupt days together… (Mary Altaffer / Associated…)

All bummed are you that since Frank McCourt sold the Dodgers for a record $2.15 billion — and kept half the parking lots!— he’s disappeared from public view?

Thought not. I, of course, miss him so. He was good for at least four easy posts a week. Now that he’s a billionaire, doing whatever billionaires do, you’re hoping he keeps doing it. Just as long as he stays away from the Southern California sports scene.

Which is not to say he doesn't continue to have significant impact on Los Angeles professional sports.

Perhaps you noticed that AEG — seemingly out of the blue — announced Tuesday it was up for sale. That’s the Philip Anschutz company that owns Staples Center, the Kings, the Galaxy, a piece of the Lakers, the Home Depot Center, several arenas around the globe, an international concert-promotion business and is the driving force to return the NFL to downtown.

And perhaps just possibly you noticed that AEG is being advised on the sale by the Blackstone Group. This would be the investment banking firm that handled the sale of the Dodgers for McCourt last May.

An amazing coincidence, heh? That four months after the Los Angeles Dodgers sell for a price that rocked the sports world, that AEG is put up for sale and contracts with McCourt’s old banking firm.

If McCourt doesn’t get that crazy price for the Dodgers, does AEG make its move right now? Maybe, and then very possibly, maybe not.

Steve Soboroff is in a somewhat unique position to take all this in, having been instrumental in working with AEG to build Staples Center and then later — briefly but notably — as an executive for McCourt with the Dodgers.

Soboroff doesn’t believe the Dodgers’ sale was the key factor in AEG’s decision, though certainly a factor.

“I think they feel the stars are in alignment, that the timing was right for them,” Soboroff said.

“The fact that [the Dodgers] got so much money is factor. I mean, they went to the same investment bank, which really didn’t have a lot or experience in this kind of stuff, that pulled off this miracle. For Frank, I guess it was a miracle.”

Every owner of every professional sports team on the planet has probably sent McCourt flowers by now, thanking him for bankrupting the Dodgers, selling them and then doing the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats routine.

The sale announcement comes a week before the City Council is scheduled to make a key vote on the $1.2-billion stadium downtown. Some find the timing curious, but if you know AEG and Anschutz, you know the timing was not accidental.

Specifics to the deal with the city, however, would have to be assumed by any new owner. Still, some have said the city should not go forward with the agreement until they know exactly who the new AEG owner will be.

But Soboroff argues that the odds are great that whomever it is will likely be more interested in the NFL than Anschutz was.

“I believe the new buyer probably will have more of a penchant, passion for football and less for soccer than Phil,” he said. “From that perspective, depending on who the new owner is, it’s probably a positive.”

He’ll also have to pay a great deal more than he would have six months ago. And for that, AEG can thank McCourt. If it hasn’t already.

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