Nearly 65 years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color line when he debuted with Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Los Angeles Lakers’ Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson has become the first African-American MLB owner with his purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.
A group led by Magic –along with MLB and NBA executive Stan Kasten, and Peter Guber, head of Mandalay Entertainment, and financed by Mark Walter, CEO of Guggenheim Partners (a Chicago-based financial services firm)– agreed to purchase the Dodgers from maligned owner Frank McCourt for $2.15 billion. The deal came fast after MLB approved the three finalists Tuesday, and if the cash deal is approved by the judge overseeing the Dodgers’ bankruptcy, the price will easily be the most ever paid for a professional sports team, far eclipsing the $1.4 billion paid for Manchester United soccer team and the 2009 $1.15 billion price tag for the Miami Dolphins.
The Dodgers players are celebrating, with their biggest star, Matt Kemp, tweeting: “Good day 4 the @dodgers! The great @magicjohnson is the new owner!! Let’s start a dynasty baby!!”
In the 20 years since first retiring from the NBA, the 52-year-old Johnson has stayed busy with a slew of business ventures, some successful (Starbucks, chain of movie theatres) and some we’d like to forget (The Magic Hour). But there’s no denying Magic’s entrepreneurial acumen or his commitment to winning (five-time NBA champion, three-time league MVP), which makes him an intriguing choice to revitalize the plummeting Los Angeles Dodgers franchise. Magic’s involvement will resurrect the franchise’s legacy. His presence at games will help the organization reconnect with their abused fans and will aid players to return their focus to baseball again. But, most importantly Johnson’s impact will lift a lifeless ball club on the brink of obscurity to the front page of every news outlet in town. It is showtime. A new era has begun.