One by one, the various ownership crises facing baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig are being resolved. Yesterday, the Mets settled with a trustee in the ongoing Madoff suit for at most $162 million, probably less when the final bill comes due. Compared to the threat of a $1 billion judgement against the team, it’s a bargain. They’ll get even more of a reprieve by not having to make any payments for four years.
The Mets managed to pay off $65 million in short-term debt, thanks to a $240 million selloff of minority shares in the team (8 x $30 million). While Sandy Alderson will have to run the team on the lean side for at least this season, prospects for a rebound are decent.
On the other coast, MLB and Frank McCourt have narrowed down the lister of bidders for the Dodgers to four groups. MLB’s favorite appears to be the group headed by Magic Johnson and former Nats president Stan Kasten, largely because the bid is local. McCourt’s favorite may be the bid by New York hedge fund magnate Steven Cohen. The Cohen bid boost may have gotten a boost thanks to Patrick Soon-Shiong, an LA billionaire whose sudden presence as a minority partner gives Cohen some local bonafides. Unlike the Johnson-Kasten syndicate bid, Cohen was going solo (until Soon-Shiong) and is ready to post an incredible $900 million cash as part of his $1.4 billion (not highest) bid. Ironically, Soon-Shiong picked up Magic’s minority share of the Lakers last year. Magic vacated that share and his executive position within the organization to get his ducks lined up for the Dodgers bid.
The other two bids are by Rams owner Stan Kroenke and a joint bid by possibly outgoing Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley and LA financier Tony Ressler, who initially headed separate bids. By the terms of McCourt’s divorce settlement, he must pick a winning bidder and close the sale by April 30 so that he can make a massive $131 million payment to his ex-wife, Jamie McCourt.
All of this movement should put the A’s situation truly on the front burner, press release wars and gossip aside. That doesn’t mean that Selig will be able to come to a mutually beneficial agreement for the A’s and Giants – for some time my argument has been that this is the obstacle, not gathering votes or self-serving agendas. With the next owners meetings coming in mid-May, perhaps this is the chance to truly address the issue once and for all. Selig deserves as much blame for allowing the Mets and Dodgers to fester as he gets credit for saving them from the financial disaster, but from both quantitative and qualitative measure both teams are worth more (and deserve more attention) than the A’s and Giants’ squabble. Let’s hope, then, that he’ll be able to muster enough resources to resolve the A’s problems once and for all, instead of playing the perennial game of kick-the-can with the green and gold. Seven years is long enough.