NEW YORK – Joe Torre's group has dropped out of bidding for the bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers because current owner Frank McCourt won't include the parking lots outside the stadium.
Whether the lots are included in the sale has been an issue that always has had the potential to become contentious as the sale process moves toward a conclusion in April.
Some if not most bidders are opposed to the prospect of buying the team and then having to deal with McCourt as their next-door-neighbor, in control of land needed for the vehicles of fans attending games.
The decision, first reported by The Los Angeles Times, was conveyed to Major League Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred in a letter from group head Rick Caruso and Torre. The letter was obtained by the Times and The Associated Press.
"Since the outset, we felt that operationally it would be impossible to effectively manage baseball operations having the parking lots that surround the stadium under separate ownership," said the letter, which was dated Feb. 17. "We believed that during the bid process that we would have the opportunity to buy the lots. It has not been made clear to us by Mr. McCourt that the lots are not and will not be for sale."
The Caruso-Torre bid has been considered one of the favorites, pairing a real estate developer with a former Dodgers manager who quit his job with MLB to join the chase for the team. They left open the possibility of getting back in.
"If the circumstances of the sale change, we are prepared to re-engage in the process immediately," the letter said.
The Dodgers declined comment, spokeswoman Lyndsey Estin said.
Second, more refined bids were due Thursday, after the groups had submitted documentation to Major League Baseball. McCourt's financial adviser, Blackstone Group, must decide whether to drop any additional bidders before interviews are scheduled with baseball's ownership committee.
Under McCourt's agreement with MLB, filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, he is to select a winning bid by April and close a sale by April 30 — the day he is to make a $131 million divorce payment to former wife Jamie.
Also considered among the favorites are bids by Steve Cohen of the hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors and by a group that includes Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the Guggenheim Partners financial services firm.
Cohen is represented by Steve Greenberg, the son of Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, a former agent and deputy commissioner and frequent banker for baseball team sales.
Walter's group includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson and former Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten.