(Adds background on Rick Caruso in fourth paragraph.)
Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Joe Torre resigned as Major League Baseball’s Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations to join a group seeking to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Torre, who was the Dodgers manager from 2008-2010 after leading the New York Yankees from 1996-2007, has aligned with Los Angeles real estate developer Rick Caruso.
“I have great confidence in Rick Caruso’s unique qualifications and his ability to lead a successful bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers,” Torre said in a statement. “In Rick I found a partner who understands consumers and fully appreciates that the Dodgers are a treasured LA institution.”
Caruso, 52, has thrived in retail. The Grove, his town square-like shopping center in Los Angeles, attracts 17 million shoppers a year and had few vacancies through the recession, he said in a 2010 interview.
He is developing a $550 million shopping and dining complex on the Las Vegas Strip for Caesars Entertainment Inc. between the Flamingo and Imperial Palace hotel casinos.
“Rick is very hands on, very creative and he runs the premier shopping center in one of the largest markets in America,” said Mickey Drexler, chief executive at J Crew Group Inc., which has a store at The Grove. “I think he’d make visiting Dodger Stadium a compelling experience.”
The Dodgers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June, and clashed with Baseball over whether it should be allowed to sell its future television rights. In November, MLB and the team struck a deal in which owner Frank McCourt would sell the team and Baseball would let the Dodgers try to sell the television rights early.
The club, in the nation’s second-biggest television market, is valued at $800 million by Forbes magazine, third-highest in the sport after the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The record price for a baseball franchise is $845 million paid for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.
“Joe has a proven track record of fielding winning teams and I am looking forward to our group benefiting from his unique experience,” Caruso said in a statement.
Other bidders include billionaire hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors LLC in Stamford, Connecticut; Mark Walter, chief executive of Guggenheim Partners LLC in New York City, who has former Los Angeles Lakers player Magic Johnson, a basketball Hall of Famer, among his partners; and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
The deadline for opening bids was delayed 10 days to Jan. 23, partly because of “substantial potential bidder interest,” Lyndsey Estin, a spokeswoman for the team, said in an e-mail.
The Dodgers owe about $754 million, according to bankruptcy court records filed last month. That includes $110 million the team borrowed from MLB to operate in bankruptcy and $409.9 million in long-term debt owed by LA HoldCo LLC. LA HoldCo lost $35.9 million for the six months ending Nov. 30 on revenue of $149.8 million, according to court records.
Torre, 71, would bring his experience as a player, manager and MLB executive to the group.
With the Yankees, Torre won World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. A former player and manager with the New York Mets, Torre left the Yankees after rejecting a one-year, $5 million contract offer, which he called insulting.
Torre played parts of 18 major-league seasons for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. A catcher, first baseman and third baseman, he was a career .297 hitter, with 252 home runs and 1,185 runs batted in, and was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1971, when he batted .363 and drove in 137 runs for the Cardinals.
He began his managerial career as player/manager for the Mets in 1977. He also had stints with the Braves and St. Louis Cardinals before becoming manager of the Yankees in 1996. The team never failed to reach the playoffs with Torre at the helm. He also took the Dodgers to the postseason in 2008 and 2009.
Torre has a 2,326-1,997 career record as a manager, trailing Connie Mack (3,731 wins), John McGraw (2,763), Tony La Russa (2,638) and Bobby Cox (2,504) in career wins.
Torre took the executive vice president job with MLB in February, where he oversaw on-field operations, on-field discipline and umpiring.
The baseball operations functions will now be led on an interim basis by senior vice presidents Joe Garagiola Jr., Kim Ng and Peter Woodfork. Torre appointed Garagiola, Ng and Woodfork to their positions in March.
--With assistance from Rob Golum in Los Angeles. Editor: Michael Sillup
#<105960.13318.104.22.168.0.91># -0- Jan/04/2012 19:32 GMT
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