By Sue Zeidler
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The second round of bids for the highly sought after Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team is due around February 23, according to several people familiar with the process.
The Dodgers are expected to fetch more than $1.5 billion, a record for a baseball team, and have attracted an impressive lineup of sporting and financial moguls, ranging from Magic Johnson to hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen. 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 for what is expected to be steep bidding, according to people familiar with the process.
The team declined comment.
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 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.
MLB can approve up to a maximum of 10 bidders who will be allowed to move forward in the process, sources said. Blackstone Group and McCourt will make the final determination in the sale. The list seems to change on a daily basis, with several bidders adding backers with deep pockets to their efforts.
The latest name to pop up as a bidder is Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump and son of New York real estate powerhouse Charles Kushner. A spokesman for Kushner declined to comment, although a person familiar with the matter confirmed his interest.
SAC Capital Advisors chief Steven Cohen, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, former Lakers legend Magic Johnson, former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley and New York media executive Leo Hindery are all still in the game.
These bidders either declined comment or were unavailable.
Sources have said these suitors were required to convince Blackstone Group, the bank conducting the sale, that they had the finances to participate in the bidding.
The second-round bidders are reviewing more in-depth financial data, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Hedge fund mogul Cohen is also considering taking a small stake in another team -- his hometown New York Mets, people familiar with the matter said.
The billionaire trader, known for his knack in delivering strong and steady returns at his $14 billion SAC Capital Advisors, first flirted with the Mets early last year when the team tried to sell a one-third stake for $200 million to satisfy the team owners' debts.
People familiar with his thinking said that buying this stake would not take him out of the running to try to win the Dodgers. But if he were to succeed, Major League Baseball would require him to sell his stake in the Mets.
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 to help secure TV rights beyond 2013.
Fox owned the Dodgers from 1998 to 2004, but a spokesman said the company has no desire to own the team.
The sale being conducted by Blackstone is overseen by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. McCourt bought the team in 2004 for $430 million, primarily financed with debt.
(Reporting by Sue Zeidler; Additional reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)