Dodger bidders go to Phoenix for MLB meets-sources

LOS ANGELES, March 9 Fri Mar 9, 2012 7:45pm EST

LOS ANGELES, March 9 (Reuters) - Bidders for the Los Angeles Dodgers are heading to Arizona for meetings early next week to be vetted by Major League Baseball, ahead of the next and third round of bids due around next Friday, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson, hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen, St Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and media executive Leo Hindery are among an estimated seven parties who remain in the bidding. Sources have said the bids are between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion.

These bidders will on Monday and Tuesday meet in Phoenix with MLB representatives who will potentially narrow the field further.

One source familiar with the process said MLB will be scrutinizing the groups in terms of financing and other matters. Those bidders who remain in the running after that process will ultimately be submitted to a vote by MLB's full ownership of 30 baseball clubs. The team's current owner, Frank McCourt, is expected to make the final determination in the team sale.

The Dodgers are expected to be sold by late April.

The Dodgers landed on the auction block after McCourt was forced to place the team under bankruptcy protection last year. Under the terms of a settlement with Major League Baseball, McCourt must sell the team by April 30.

The sale is being conducted by Blackstone Group and McCourt.

Sources have said that Blackstone is expected to ask that final bids be submitted by as soon as March 16.

News Corp's Fox Group, the current broadcast partner of the Dodgers, has also received a nondisclosure agreement from bankers involved in the sale and has been talking with bidders about potentially buying a minority stake.

The Dodgers in recent weeks has said it has evaluated bids and forwarded them to MLB.