This week 60 Minutes Sports is preparing some great stuff, with a claim for Clemens and Bonds to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of Baseball, but also, with another exclusive first interview: Mark Walter, the Dodgers Controlling Owner explaining his mind process when buying the team.
The controlling partner in the consortium that paid a record $2.15 billion for the L.A. Dodgers last year says his bid, which many criticized as too high, was a strategy that paid off. In his first television interview, Mark Walter of Guggenheim Partners says he put his highest and best offer on the table first, believing his competitors would not be showing their real hands in the initial round. His strategy paid off when his bid was quickly accepted. The interview with Walter is part of a 60 MINUTES SPORTS story about the Dodgers whirlwind transformation from an ailing Major League Baseball franchise whose owner declared bankruptcy, into the most expensive and perhaps promising group of talent ever put on a baseball diamond. Byron Pitts reports from Los Angeles on 60 MINUTES SPORTS on SHOWTIME, Wednesday, April 3 at 9 p.m.
“We came up with what we thought it was worth and, you know, made our best bid so we had the best chance to get it,” says Walter. When reminded the bid was $800 million more than the next highest, Walter replies, “I think that’s probably unlikely to be correct …but the process had set out where, there were going to be several or could have been several rounds of bidding… And so many people didn’t put forth their real bid,” recalls Walter. “And we actually…did the opposite. We put what was really our best and final offer out and…we’re fortunate enough that he accepted it.”
The $2.15 billion was just the beginning. The team had to be rebuilt and Walter and his partners have spared no expense. Just a few of the multi-year player contracts that make the L.A. Dodgers’ payroll the highest in baseball: First Baseman Adrian Gonzalez – $154 million; Left Fielder Carl Crawford – $142 million; Center Fielder and former MVP runner-up Matt Kemp – $160 million; Cy Young award winning Pitcher Zack Greinke – $147 million; and another Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, who when he becomes a free agent in two years, is said to expect a long term contract, too, this one in the $200 million range.
Such largesse is the norm for Hollywood Producer Peter Guber, another partner in Walter’s investment consortium. Guber, who has delivered films like “Rain Man” and “The Color Purple,” says you have to pay to play. “I recall when somebody said, ‘You’re paying Tom Cruise all that money. You know, how dare you?’… Well, I’m in the business of making hits,” he says. “I would always choose the best talent and pay what was proper to make that product financially successful,” says Guber, who is also a part owner in another California sports franchise, the Golden State Warriors of the NBA.
There is more potential profit besides ticket sales and merchandising deals for Walter and his partners. At the end of 2013, the contract for Dodger broadcast rights ends. The Dodgers recently negotiated a 25-year deal with Time Warner Cable for a staggering $7 to $8 billion. Still in dispute is how much of the money the new owners will get to keep under the bankruptcy agreement, and how much will go to revenue sharing taxes levied by Major League Baseball.
Bottom line, says Walter, is making the Dodger franchise the best for its fans. “I think we make a promise to them that we’re going to do everything we can long term to make this, you know, as good a franchise as there is,” he says. “We may disappoint them from time to time but not because we weren’t trying or weren’t devoting all of our resources to do it.”
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