Bidder Wants Dodgers, and FSN West 2 - Multichannel

Bidder Wants Dodgers, and FSN West 2

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In an apparent effort to fund another attempt at purchasing DirecTV Inc., News Corp. is shopping its ownership in Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers. It's unclear, though, if any potential sale would include either of News Corp.'s two Los Angeles-based regional sports networks.

News Corp. purchased the Dodgers and the team's home, Dodger Stadium, from the O'Malley family in 1997, for $310 million — in part to provide programming for its regional sports networks, Fox Sports West and Fox Sports West 2.

But while the deal has provided valuable programming for the company's two Fox Sports Net West regional services, published reports said News Corp. is losing about $40 million to $50 million annually on the team.

Already, one prospective buyer for the Dodgers has stepped up to the plate. Former Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts is reportedly offering as much as $650 million for the Dodgers, the stadium and the Fox Sports Net 2 regional sports network.

Representatives from News Corp. and Major League Baseball would not comment.

The Los Angeles Times
reported last week that News has retained New York investment bank Allen & Co. to broker the sale.

Sources said that News Corp. may be looking to gain cash for another run at purchasing direct-broadcast satellite service DirecTV from Hughes Electronics Corp. (see story, cover).

Rival satellite provider EchoStar Communications Corp. had outbid News Corp. for the rights to DirecTV, but last year regulators at the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice blocked the deal, claiming it would eliminate satellite competition for millions of consumers.

News is not the only media conglomerate looking to move its interests in professional sports franchises. The Walt Disney Co. is eyeing a sale of its stake in the World Series champion Anaheim Angels.

Last fall, AOL Time Warner Inc.'s then-CEO, Richard Parsons, [who recently added the chairman title] said the company was considering the divestiture of its sports teams, but did not specify which clubs might be available. AOL Time Warner owns the National Hockey League's Atlanta Thrashers, the National Basketball Association's Atlanta Hawks and MLB's Atlanta Braves.

In January 2002, a group led by Florida financier John Henry purchased MLB's Boston Red Sox franchise for some $700 million, a deal that included an 80 percent stake in New England Sports Network, which carries Bosox games.

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