From Mark Cuban to Larry King to Magic Johnson, Orel Hershiser and Joe Torre, the list of people interested in owning the Los Angeles Dodgers reads like a who’s who of high-powered money men and sports celebrities. Among the former are supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, real-estate developer Rick Caruso, and hedge fund guru Steve Cohen.
As a native Angeleno who has vivid memories of going to his first Dodgers game in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1958 when I was 6 years old, I’d also love to own the Dodgers.
As would my close friend Danny, whom I first met in nursery school.
I’d imagine there are several million of us here in L.A. who would love to own the Dodgers.
Most of us are very unhappy with the way current Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has screwed things up.
The only thing we’re short of, as individuals, is about a billion and a half dollars or so.
Collectively, though, we do have some financial clout.
Given that these are the times of the Occupy Movement, with its slogan that “We are the 99%,” I’m surprised that there has not been more of a groundswell for citizen ownership of the Dodgers.
In fact, back on June 15 last year the L.A. City Council, on an 8-2 vote, approved a resolution encouraging public ownership of the team.
In an article about the June vote, TheCityMaven wrote, “Developer Stanley Stalford is the man behind OwnTheDodgers.com. ‘I think the number one problem facing the Dodgers today is fan apathy,’ Stalford said. ‘There’s 10,000 people (fewer) in the stadium each night. The best solution to the worst problem is fan ownership.’ "
Here’s what Stalford says on OwnTheDodgers.com:
With every ticket we buy. With every hot dog we eat. With every car we park. Working people struggle to support a legendary team in our City -- the Dodgers. A family day at the stadium is a financial hardship. But we do it. And all we expect in return is a team we can be proud of, and the players a great franchise deserves. But now we are embarrassed.
Our hard earned dollars are being used for inflated salaries for family members, opulent homes, jets and messy divorces. Our team is being sacrificed for life style. We need to take over our team. We need to Own The Dodgers. And it can be done.
It has been done in Cleveland. It has been done in Green Bay. We can offer inexpensive shares in the team so that every working person can proudly say they own part of the Dodgers. Public ownership will create a debt-free Dodgers. This alone will create tens of millions of dollars each year in free cash flow. Imagine what improvements can be done with this money. A World Series championship is in our future.
Let's stop the laughter.
Let's Own The Dodgers.
On another page on the site Stalford talks about what happened in Cleveland:
In 1998 the Cleveland Indians owner sold 40% of the Team to the public, via an IPO. 4,000,000 shares were sold at $ 15 per share. Commissioner Bud Selig approved this transaction. The IPO was successful, and for years the Indians operated as a public/private entity.
Stalford then writes on his site that paying about $800 million for the Dodgers by selling 2 million shares to the public for $400 each should do the trick. Unfortunately, it’ll cost about twice that amount to get the team.
But I’d still love to see the public do it.
In my mind, the model isn’t what happened with the Indians, but what they've done in Green Bay.
As freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor Patrick Hruby wrote on the ESPN site a year ago, “Since 1923, Green Bay has been the only publicly owned, nonprofit major professional sports team in the nation. And that doesn't just make the franchise a charming anachronism, or the answer to a barstool trivia question. It makes them an example. A case study. A working model for a better way to organize and administer pro sports.”
Hruby explains, “All profits are invested back into the team. As such, Green Bay's board of directors is mostly motivated to: (a) remain solvent; (b) field a competitive team. They're not driven to make money for the sake of making more money … .
“To put things another way: Because the Packers are publicly owned, they are the only NFL franchise to open its books. According to the team's most recent income statement, Green Bay's operating profit -- that is, the money the franchise made after expenses -- fell from $34.2 million in 2007 to $9.8 million last year, largely due to increased player costs.”
Hruby then adds: “Other league owners -- who do not disclose their finances -- like to cite this decline as evidence that pro football's financial model is broken. In reality, it only suggests that their business is less lucrative. Fact is, the Packers still earned nearly $10 million -- almost five times what they earned in 1994, and plenty of money for an organization whose top priority isn't the bottom line.”
So here’s my plan, short and sweet. Given the time constraints -- first-round bids are already in, but other bids will still be accepted -- we need someone to buy the team and then sell it to us, the public.
Who would go for such a seemingly cockamamie -- but actually quite smart -- scheme.
My vote is Eli Broad. I don’t personally know Mr. Broad. But I do know that he’s been a great friend to the city of Los Angeles with an unmatched record of philanthropy. A lot of what he’s done here has been connected with the world of art, and I’ve read that he’s said he’s not interested in owning the Dodgers.
But maybe he’d be for this idea of the public owning the Dodgers as a nonprofit, like the citizens of Green Bay own the Packers. And he has the resources to buy the team and then turn around and sell it to all of us.
Mr. Broad has a proven record as someone who cares deeply about the future of L.A. What better way to help ensure that future than by having a baseball team that those of us who live here can once again be most proud of.
Time is short on this, but it can be done.
Eli, will you at least think about it?