By Sue Zeidler and Ronald Grover
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen, St Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and a group that includes media executive Leo Hindery and Los Angeles investor Tom Barrick are among seven parties who advanced to the next round of bids for the Los Angeles Dodgers, two people with knowledge of the bidding said on Monday.
The seven remaining bidders, which also include Beverly Hills real estate developer Alan Casden and a group led by Roy Disney's one-time financial advisor Stanley Gold, will now be vetted by Major League Baseball.
After two rounds, the number of parties keen on acquiring one of baseball's oldest and most storied clubs has been whittled to seven from 15 initially, and is expected to shrink further in coming weeks.
The league is expected to decide by mid-March which of the surviving seven qualify under its eligibility requirements, the sources told Reuters.
The Dodgers are expected to be sold by late April.
In a Monday statement, the Dodgers said only that it had evaluated bids and forwarded them on to MLB, whose ownership committee will now meet with bidders.
Last week, developer Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre withdrew their joint bid to buy the team, according to a person familiar with the bidding process.
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.
Ex-Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley also retreated as a suitor last week, according to sources close to the bidding process.
The Los Angeles Times first reported the latest round of bidders on its blog. Michael Heisley, majority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies pro-baseball team and Ares Capital co-founder Tony Ressler also dropped out of the bidding, the Times said.
GETTING IN LINE
The auction had attracted a bevy of sporting and financial greats, from LA Lakers legend Magic Johnson to Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law and publisher of the New York Observer.
The Dodgers landed on the auction block after owner Frank 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, who will make the final determination in the sale. Major League Baseball is vetting bidders during the process.
Marc Ganis, president of sports consulting firm SportsCorp Ltd, said 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.
He valued the Dodgers at about $1.2 billion, but said their pricetag could rise to $1.5 billion with competitive bidding. He expected that certain bidders may haggle over the land, lots and other issues.
SAC Capital Advisors' Cohen recently spent $20 million for a 4 percent stake in his hometown New York Mets baseball team, but if he were to win the bid for the Dodgers, he would have to liquidate his stake in the Mets.
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 after just the first round.
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.
(Editing by Edwin Chan and Tim Dobbyn)