Selig confident Dodgers will be sold by April 30

LOS ANGELES Sat Jan 14, 2012 11:30pm EST

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig speaks at a news conference in New York, November 22, 2011, to announce a new five-year collective bargaining agreement with the players that will allow play to continue uninterrupted through the 2016 season. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig speaks at a news conference in New York, November 22, 2011, to announce a new five-year collective bargaining agreement with the players that will allow play to continue uninterrupted through the 2016 season.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Bud Selig said Saturday he was counting on the bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers to be sold by April 30.

Terms of the settlement between MLB and team owner Frank McCourt filed last month stated that McCourt must sell the Dodgers and the stadium within that time frame.

"I'm confident it will be completed by then," Selig told reporters at a fundraiser hosted by Beverly Hills businessman Dennis Gilbert, who is among the potential bidders for the Dodgers.

"We have five or six terrific bidders, maybe even more," Selig said, noting that media rights were a big factor in the deal. "Media rights are important in any franchise sale."

The pending sale of the storied baseball team is heating up with initial bids expected by Jan 23.

Prospective bidders include a who's who list of sports and financial heavyweights, including former Dodgers manager Joe Torre, basketball great Magic Johnson, hedge fund titan Steven Cohen, media mogul Mark Cuban and sports agent and Los Angeles businessman Dennis Gilbert who hosted Saturday's event.

Earlier this week, News Corp.'s Fox signed a nondisclosure agreement with bankers involved in the sale of the Dodgers, according to a person with knowledge of the process.

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Fox does not want to reclaim full ownership of the team but may seek to become a minority investor in order to retain the team's TV rights, the person said.

Fox previously owned the Dodgers from 1998 to 2004 and a spokesman said the company has no desire to own the team, which filed for bankruptcy in June and ended a long-running feud with MLB in November by agreeing to auction the team.

MLB in return agreed to allow McCourt to sell media rights to future games sooner than Fox's current contract allows, in order to boost the value of the team. But Fox fought that effort in court and this week settled its dispute with the Dodgers.

Media rights beyond 2013 are at the center of the Dodgers' sale. Fox is the current broadcast partner, but its deal expires after the 2013 season.

A Fox spokesman said the company has no interest in "owning the Dodgers."

The sales process is being overseen by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. 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.

Interested parties have received detailed offering documents. After the initial bidding, MLB will be tasked with narrowing the field to 10 bidders who will ultimately participate in the auction. McCourt and Blackstone are then expected to make the final determination in the ultimate sale.

(Reporting by Sue Zeidler; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes/Patrick Johnston)

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