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Torre, Caruso join to bid for Dodgers

MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre announces cancellation of Game 6 in St. Louis
MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre announces cancellation of Game 6 in St. Louis

By Steve Ginsburg and Sue Zeidler

(Reuters) - Baseball veteran Joe Torre is partnering with Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso to bid for the bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers.

The two join a long list of prospective bidders lining up for the storied baseball franchise. The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy in June after the Major League Baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, rejected a proposed renewal of the team's broadcast rights with News Corp's Fox Sports.

The Dodgers ended their feud with MLB in November by agreeing to auction the team. MLB in return agreed to allow team owner Frank McCourt to sell media rights to future games sooner than Fox's current contract allows, in order to boost the value of the team.

Fox Sports, which has now become the team's adversary, last month won a key victory by persuading a judge to temporarily halt the team's plan to sell the media rights to games starting in 2014 -- rights that were expected to be worth up to $3 billion.

Some sports experts predict the Dodgers, stadium and some related assets could fetch more than $1 billion. McCourt bought the team in 2004 for $430 million, primarily financed with debt. Forbes magazine valued the assets at $800 million in March.

Torre, who played 18 seasons in the majors, managed the Dodgers from 2008-2010 following a 12-year stint as manager of the New York Yankees, where he won the World Series four times.

He said on Wednesday he had resigned his post in MLB's front office in order to bid for the Dodgers.

"I have made this decision because of a unique chance to join a group that plans to bid for the Dodgers. After leaving the field, this job was an incredible experience," he said.

Torre, 71, was appointed baseball's executive vice-president for baseball operations in February, overseeing areas that included on-field discipline and umpiring.

McCourt and Selig reached a deal on November 2 to put the team up for sale. Terms of the pact were sketched out in a court filing last month, effectively starting the auction for the team and stadium.

The prospective bidders include a who's who list of sports and financial heavyweights, including basketball legend Magic Johnson, hedge fund titan Steven Cohen, media mogul Mark Cuban, financier Ron Burkle, sports agent and Los Angeles businessman Dennis Gilbert, and former Dodgers star Steve Garvey.

In a statement, Caruso said, "The Dodgers are an iconic Los Angeles franchise, and I am thrilled to partner with Joe Torre, one of baseball's all-time greats, to launch a bid for this storied organization.

Blackstone Advisory Partners is managing the team sale process, and as many as 15 parties have signed confidentiality agreements as a first step in the bidding.

The U.S. Bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware, will oversee the sale process.

Interested parties have received detailed offering documents and Major League Baseball must now pre-approve bidders before the auction begins, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly.

One of the sources said the field is currently being narrowed to about 10 bidders who will ultimately participate in the auction. Initial bids are now due on January 23, 10 days later than the original January 13 deadline, according to a spokesperson for the Dodgers.

Terms of the settlement between MLB and McCourt filed last month stated that McCourt must sell the Dodgers and the stadium by April 30.

The bankruptcy case is In re: Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No.11-12010.

(Reporting by Sue Zeidler in Los Angeles and Steve Ginsburg in Washington; editing by John Wallace)

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