| March 28
March 28 He didn't go to a Major League Baseball
game until he was 20, yet at age 51, Mark Walter is leading the
group buying the Los Angeles Dodgers for a record $2.1 billion.
Walter, CEO of financial services firm Guggenheim Capital
LLC, is the money guy in a disparate consortium that includes
basketball icon entrepreneur Earvin "Magic" Johnson, long-time
baseball executive Stan Kasten and Hollywood heavyweight Peter
The group preempted an anticipated auction for one of
baseball's most storied franchises with a jaw-dropping offer
that far exceeded expectations of near $1.5 billion, which rival
bidders were prepared to pay.
Walter grew up in rural Iowa, near the location used to film
"Field of Dreams." He shuttles between New York and Chicago,
where he is seen frequently at Cubs games with his young
A source close to Walter said he still plans to keep his
season tickets for the Cubs, but will soon find a residence in
Los Angeles. "Mark views this as a long-term investment in the
tradition of baseball and something his daughter's daughter may
one day enjoy," said one person who knows him.
While Walter handles the money, it's expected that Kasten,
who ran both the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals
franchises, will oversee the team's baseball and business
matters. The gregarious Johnson will be the face of the
Guber, who ran Sony's Columbia pictures movie studio in the
early 90s, owns five minor league teams, none of which are
affiliated with the Dodgers. Last year, he and Boston Celtics
minority partner Joe Lacob acquired the NBA's Golden State
"I have a lot of faith in Mark and his abilities," said Ken
Lombard, Johnson's former business partner and a longtime friend
of Guber. "These are a lot of smart guys who have taken a
careful look at the assets and this is a jewel of a franchise."
Walter and Kasten sought out Johnson to join their bid soon
after Dodgers' team owner Frank McCourt and major league
baseball announced on Nov. 1 that the team was for sale, a
person familiar with the process said, with the Hall of Fame
point guard providing the local presence the league wanted.
"Both guys are about winning and making a difference in the
L.A. community, Johnson told the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 2.
"I love baseball. I've been a Dodgers fan and gone to the park
many, many times."
Johnson brings deep connections to the local business
community as well. His Magic Johnson Enterprises owns movie
theaters, health clubs and other properties in the LA area.
Kasten, who had a long-time business relationship with
Atlanta media mogul Ted Turner, became the general manager of
Turner's NBA Atlanta Hawks' in 1979 at age 27.
He later became the Hawk's president and then president of
the Atlanta Braves' baseball franchise.
The 60-year old Kasten took over as president of the
Washington Nationals in 2006 for billionaire real estate
developer Theodore Lerner, who bought the team that year for
The Dodgers acquisition thrust the usually low-key Walter
and his Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC into the spotlight
with a bid that seemed to some outsized for a storied franchise
with an aging stadium and a team in need to better players.
"There's a lot of smart money in town that wouldn't do this
deal," said Lloyd Greif, president of investment bank Greif &
Co. "It's hard to justify this price in economic terms. It's a
The groups' saving grace may be the TV rights for the
nation's second largest media market. News Corp's Fox
owns the team's broadcasting rights through the end of 2013,
with an exclusive negotiating window to renew its deal beginning
Experts have suggested the lucrative broadcasting is worth
north of $3 billion and Time Warner Cable has also been
talking with bidders with an eye toward getting a piece of the
media rights when it is able.
Many expect the two media giants will face off in a bidding
war for the rights.
Major League Baseball, which pressured McCourt to sell,
seems satisfied wit the transaction.
"This price is an obvious reflection of the overall health
of the team under the leadership of Commissioner Selig," said
Pat Courtney, a spokesman for MLB.
The deal still has to be approved in U.S. Bankruptcy Court,
but nobody expects any problems with such a lofty price.