Several names have been mentioned as potential suitors for the Dodgers, in the event Frank McCourt decides to sell. Mind you, he's very adamant the club is not, and will not be, for sale. Still, you probably know most of the names. There's Dennis Gilbert and Eli Broad, two old favorites. Mark Cuban is always popular. Steve Soboroff and Tim Leiweke are not talked about as much, but I've heard them as potential dark-horses.
But how about you? The Daily News' Tom Hoffarth explains:
The recent very public divorce proceedings embarrassed Angelenos to no end. Despite doing a lot of stadium renovation and laying out plans for more mini-mall-like expansion, the McCourts' ultimate treatment of the team, the city and its fans appears to be a pretty clear-cut case of L.A. identity theft. And we want it back.Fun stuff, right? The premise is that you and I will lay out some of our money to buy a piece of the team. I see two threshold problems: First, while I'm certainly against using public money to make this happen, we must recognize that the same financial issues the state faces are affecting many of us, too. Simply put, the same way there are fewer billionaires ready to buy the Dodgers outright than there were a few years ago, there are also fewer civilians, as it were, prepared to lay out thousands for an interesting piece of paper.
Janice Hahn, the L.A. city councilwoman whose family investment in the Dodgers goes back to rolling out the blue carpet for the team when it arrived in 1958, has already stepped up.
Hahn issued a press release Oct. 1, calling on the U.S. Congress to reconsider the "Give Fans A Chance Act," something that Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., has proposed at least twice in the past decade, but could not get passed.
She also emphasizes that this isn't proposing that the cash-strapped city buy the team, or that tax money be used.
The second problem, of course, is a technical one. It would be awfully tough to pull this off. Hoffarth gets us started:
There's nothing we can find in the Major League Baseball's Declaration of Ownership Independence that forbids public/fan operation of a team. Several sources have confirmed that. So, we're going with that premise.That's one big problem. While there might be nothing that explicitly forbids public ownership of a Major League franchise, that approval process would seem to serve as a de facto prohibition, should MLB choose to use it as such. Baseball often has enough trouble reining in small ownership groups. Imagine how it feels about a group of thousands. Back to you, Tom:
Yet, as a privately held company, in cahoots with a legal oligopoly of antitrust-protected businessmen and women all watching each other's financial interests, the Dodgers simply can't be bought and sold like a corner liquor store. Any change in ownership needs approval of the eight-person MLB Ownership Committee.
Several MLB sources that wished to remain anonymous tell us the chances of a nonprofit organization owning any big-league team these days are pretty far-fetched. There are tax amortization rules in place, for example, that benefit individual owners who face financial losses. There's revenue sharing. There are all kinds of hurdles in place that probably wouldn't work with a nonprofit structure.One of the several tracks on repeat during the McCourt trial was Jamie McCourt's supposed unwillingness to submit to the strictures of ownership: the personal guarantees, indemnifications, invasive background investigation, et cetera. The point is that Baseball, for reasons several and well-enumerated by Hoffarth and friend-of-the-site Maury Brown in the article, really likes keeping the club small and private. Full disclosure is not Baseball's strong suit.
I spoke to Hahn about this issue a few weeks ago, and mentioned the concept of a control person. She acknowledged that, in any effort to bring the Dodgers public, ultimate control (and responsibility) would have to lie not with the fans, but with some entity that would provide those guarantees, indemnifications, and the rest. That's among the numerous hurdles to implementation of public ownership of the Dodgers--very much a civic asset.
In the end, I agree with Brown and other observers who say that it won't--and probably can't--happen. The takeaway, in my opinion, is that we really do view the Dodgers as something much more than a business, and we would like whoever or whatever controls the Dodgers to feel the same. Nothing would be a purer solution than for the fans themselves to own the team, but that's unlikely for a host of reasons. Instead, we'll hope for the next best option: that whoever owns the Dodgers, McCourt or otherwise, reestablish a connection with the city that has been lost over the last decade.