Former Nationals president Stan Kasten made an emphatic official foray back into baseball late Tuesday night, reaching an agreement as part of an ownership group that includes basketball legend Magic Johnson to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion, the Dodgers announced.
Kasten joined the Nationals in 2006 and served as team president, a conduit between ownership and all internal and external parties, until he stepped down at the end of the 2010 season. Kasten maintained a small ownership stake in the Nationals until March 2011, when he sold his shares in order to take on a new venture.
The Kasten-Johnson partnership will help extricate the Dodgers, one of baseball’s most revered franchises, from the mess created by previous owner Frank McCourt’s divorce and financial misadventures. The $2 billion price tag is record for the value of a North American franchise, a price offset by the value of the property surrounding Dodger Stadium and the revenue from an ensuing television contract.
Kasten and Johnson also partnered with Mark Walter, chief executive of Guggenheim Partners, a global financial services firm. The trio created an unbeatable combination — a baseball insider who has Commissioner Bud Selig’s approval, perhaps the most popular public figure in Los Angeles and a businessman with gobs of cash.
The agreement is subject to approval in federal bankruptcy court. Walter would be franchise’s controlling owner, according to the Associated Press.
In Washington, Kasten helped the Lerner family seize control of the Nationals and played a role in every major decision, including the building of Nationals Park. Kasten publicly defended the Lerners like a bulldog, but many close to Kasten sensed he grew frustrated by how inconsistently the Lerners heeded his advisement.
Kasten ran the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks before coming to Washington. While in the NBA, Kasten befriended Johnson and, in the late 1990s, offered the Hawks’ head coaching job to Johnson. He turned it down. Now, though, Kasten and Johnson will run a much larger franchise together.