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Dodgers deal excites many, worries some

LOS ANGELES — Magic Johnson is about to learn $2 billion only buys so much. Now he'll need to bring the Dodgers the same success he brought the Lakers.

News that Johnson and his partners agreed to purchase the team sparked excited chatter and optimism — mixed in with some words of caution — Wednesday that the man who ran "Showtime" could restore luster to the once-proud franchise.

The purchase price would be mind-blowing if it were just for the team. But it also gives the group the right to reel in future riches from TV and real estate associated with the Dodgers.

"A big part of the purchase price is all those other things," said David Carter, executive director of USC Sports Business Institute. "You've got a great piece of property you can develop and make a game-day experience around Chavez Ravine. A likely billion-dollar cable (television) rights deal that will come out of it makes it a very unique sale."

Current owner Frank McCourt picked Johnson's group to buy the Dodgers five hours after Major League Baseball approved three finalists in a bankruptcy auction. Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the Chicago financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would be the controlling owner.

Johnson told that the opportunity, as an African-American, to become owner of the franchise that broke baseball's color barrier was too enticing to pass up.

"I love baseball," Johnson told the website. "I've been to many, many, not just Dodger games, but baseball games around the country. … When I met Mark Walter he reminded me so much of (Lakers owner) Dr. Jerry Buss in terms of how he approached things, how he wants to win, family man, that whole thing.

"I still can't believe that we're buying the Dodgers. I can't believe the Dodgers were on the market."

Johnson, 52, is revered among area sports fans. He also has proven he can succeed in real estate, retail and entertainment.

"Great day for the Dodgers," slugger Matt Kemp said. "As Magic used to say, the Dodgers were the team that used to run L.A. Definitely we were going to have more fans out there this year. Now there's another reason to have the fans turn out."

Still, some sports economists criticized the new owners for not completely severing ties with McCourt, who would still control half of the land surrounding Dodger Stadium, including parking lots, and would be involved with potential real estate projects on the property.

Guggenheim's Walter told ESPN that he understood the concerns but insisted that McCourt will have only an "economic interest" in the land.

"Frank's not involved in the team, baseball, any of that," Walter said. "What Frank does have is an economic interest in land, but we control the parking and all the fan experience, and that's of the utmost importance to us."

ASTROS: Wandy Rodriguez will be the first left-hander in 38 years to start on opening day for the club. … Shortstop Jed Lowrie sprained his right thumb diving into second and is day to day.

INDIANS: The club began installing an innovative wind turbine on top of Progressive Field. The corkscrew-shaped structure, designed at Cleveland State, will be operating by opening day.

NATIONALS: Closer Drew Storen will start the season on the disabled list because of trouble in his right (pitching) elbow.

REDS: Setup man Nick Masset will start the season on the disabled list with inflammation in his right (pitching) shoulder.

ROYALS: Right-hander Felipe Paulino will begin the season on the disabled list with a sore elbow.

TWINS: Right-handed reliever Joel Zumaya, who is scheduled to have season-ending elbow ligament replacement surgery today, was released.

Dodgers deal excites many, worries some 03/28/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 9:28pm]
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