| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre have withdrawn their joint bid to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, a person familiar to the bidding process said on Thursday, the day that second-round bids were due.
That source and another source close to the situation said Caruso and Torre backed out due to team owner Frank McCourt's refusal to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale. The storied team is expected to be sold by late April.
A spokesperson for the Dodgers had no immediate comment.
Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley also retreated as a suitor this week, according to sources close to the bidding process for the Dodgers, which are expected to fetch more than $1.5 billion, a record for a baseball team.
The auction has attracted a bevy of sporting and financial moguls and sources said on Thursday they believed former Lakers legend Magic Johnson, SAC Capital Advisors chief Steven Cohen, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and media executive Leo Hindery were all still in the game.
"We're now at the point where people have to show their money and it becomes a much different process," said Marc Ganis, president of sports consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd, who noted that control of the parking lots, a lucrative revenue stream for any team owner, was likely to play a role in the process going forward.
"I could see the Dodgers being worth about $1.2 billion and maybe as much as $1.5 billion with competitive bidding, but the status of the land, lots and other issues will help determine the final purchase price," he said.
"I think the land and the lots is an issue. For some bidders it will be a threshold, for others it will be a strong preference and others will simply hold their old nose and move forward," he said.
Terms of a settlement between Major League Baseball and team owner Frank McCourt stated that McCourt must sell the team by April 30. Some of the suitors are likely to team up in coming weeks.
On January 27 the Dodgers said a preliminary round of bidding had been completed and bidders had been notified of the results.
Between 15 to 20 parties initially submitted non-binding preliminary bids, and some well-known bidders like former sports agent Dennis Gilbert and former Dodgers stars Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser were cut from the process on January 27.
The sale is being conducted by Blackstone Group and McCourt, who will make the final determination in the sale. Major League Baseball is vetting bidders during the process.
The Dodgers landed on the auction block after owner Frank McCourt was forced to place the team under bankruptcy protection last year.
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.
(Reporting By Susan Zeidler; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)