Dolich, Claire Lead Investment Group That Wants to Buy Los Angeles Dodgers

Two former baseball team officials and a onetime biotechnology executive are leading a group that plans to bid on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the court-supervised sale of the club by owner Frank McCourt.

Andy Dolich, a former executive vice president of the Oakland Athletics, and former Dodgers General Manager Fred Claire confirmed their interest in telephone interviews yesterday. Claire said the principal of the group is Ben Hwang, a former Dodgers batboy who went on to become a senior executive at Life Technologies Corp. (LIFE), a biotechnology tools company based in Carlsbad, California.

The group is the first to publicly announce its interest in making an offer for the Dodgers, whose sale comes after a bankruptcy filing and months of legal wrangling with Major League Baseball.

“The goal of our group is to return the level of quality that the Dodgers have always represented,” Dolich said. “Bottom line is now, with the next step clearly defined, one of America’s premier sports franchises will get back into loving hands.”

MLB and the Dodgers announced in a joint statement two nights ago that they had agreed to a court-supervised sale of the team to be handled by Blackstone Group LP (BX), the world’s largest private-equity firm.

The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy protection four months ago after baseball Commissioner Bud Selig rejected a 17-year broadcast contract with Fox Sports, a deal valued by McCourt at $3 billion.

$1 Billion Estimate

Attorneys for McCourt have estimated the value of the team, its stadium and the surrounding land to be more than $1 billion. Forbes magazine says the team and its assets are worth $800 million. Beyond the team and its media rights, the club hasn’t said which assets will be included in the sale.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., the parent of Fox Sports, sold the franchise to McCourt for $421 million in 2004.

Dolich, 64, who last year opened Dolich & Associates in Los Altos, California, has worked in all four major North American professional sports leagues.

He was director of marketing for the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals from 1976-78 and was with the Athletics from 1980-95. He was an executive with the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association, and was chief operating officer of the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League from 2007-10.

Possible Asian Investors

Claire, 76, who was general manager of the Dodgers from 1987-98, said Hwang came to him in July with the idea of buying the team.

The group has been speaking with potential investors in the U.S. and Asia, and Claire said he and Hwang have traveled to Asia since the summer to seek financial support for the bid -- though the majority of the financing would come from Americans.

“The growth of the game is going to be on an international level,” he said. “We have not limited ourselves just to the United States.”

Other potential bidders for the team have been mentioned. One of them, Ron Burkle, chairman of Los Angeles-based Yucaipa Cos. private investment firm and co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that he “would be proud to be part of its future.”

Billionaires Eli Broad, Mark Cuban and Larry Ellison are among those whom sports bankers said also might join the bidding.

Cuban Says No

Cuban, owner of the NBA-champion Dallas Mavericks, expressed interest in the Chicago Cubs when they were up for sale and was a bidder on the Texas Rangers, who ultimately went to a group that included Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.

Cuban said in an e-mail yesterday that he hasn’t made an offer for the Dodgers, who finished with an 82-79 record this season while often playing in a half-empty stadium.

Cuban said he previously inquired about buying the Dodgers and was told the team expected a minimum of $1 billion.

“I said I wasn’t interested at that price,” Cuban wrote.

Karen Denne, a spokesman for KB Home co-founder Broad, declined comment. Deborah Hellinger, a spokeswoman for Ellison, the chief executive officer of Oracle Corp. (ORCL), didn’t return an e- mail seeking comment.

Ellison made a bid last year for basketball’s Warriors, who were sold to a group led by Joe Lacob, a partner at the venture- capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for an NBA-record $450 million.

Garvey and Hershiser

Former Dodgers players Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser have expressed interest in forming a group to bid on their old team.

The Los Angeles Times said in September that McCourt received an unsolicited $1.2 billion cash offer from a group indirectly financed by the government of China. The bid, the newspaper said, was headed by Los Angeles Marathon founder Bill Burke.

The new owner would be the third since Peter O’Malley sold the team to News Corp. in 1998. The team had been in the family since before Walter O’Malley relocated the club from Brooklyn in 1958.

MLB charged McCourt in court documents with “looting” $189 million from the team for his personal use, including his divorce. McCourt denied the accusation.

The case is In re Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, 11-12010, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

To contact the reporters on this story: Rob Gloster in San Francisco at rgloster@bloomberg.net; Scott Soshnick in New York at ssoshnick@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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