Local investors looking to buy 20% of Dodgers

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Local investors looking to buy 20% of Dodgers

South Korea is hoping to become a joint owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A group of local investors are working to acquire 20 percent of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the name of the “Republic of Korea,” according to sources at financial investment and law firms.

The Major League Baseball club was bought by Guggenheim Baseball Management, chaired by Mark Walter, for $2.1 billion in March 2012.

Walter and four other partners - Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Peter Guber, Todd Boehly and Robert “Bobby” Patton Jr. - are co-owners of the Dodgers. Each of the five is believed to own about 20 percent, although the actual shares have not been made public.

“The consortium [of Korean investors] was formed when one of the five joint owners tried to sell his shares,” said a financial investment official. “The deal is expected to be worth about 400 billion won, which is 20 percent of the total cost three years ago, and is set to be concluded before the season starts in April.”

News outlets Forbes and Bloomberg assessed last year that the total asset value of the Dodgers was still about $2.1 billion, making it the second most valuable team in the MLB after the New York Yankees.

The consortium is known to have collected more than 400 billion won ($370 million) and is currently choosing the managing underwriter.

“The consortium aims to include the national pension fund or sovereign wealth fund, which can represent the country, because it wants to become a co-owner of the club in the name of the ‘Republic of Korea,’” said a law firm official.

The six-time World Series champion is probably the most popular MLB club among Koreans because of its two Korean pitchers, Park Chan-ho and Ryu Hyun-jin. Park signed with the Dodgers in 1994 and became the team’s starting pitcher, posting two-digit wins from 1997 to 2001, when he left to play for the Texas Rangers.

Dodgers games drew in huge numbers of viewers in Korea at that time, reaching nearly 20 percent of viewers on television. Park returned to the Dodgers in 2008 for a year and posted 4-4 with a 3.40 ERA, then retired in 2012 after playing a season with the Hanhwa Eagles.

Ryu, the team’s current starting left-hander, signed a six-year deal with the Dodgers in 2012 and has posted 14 wins in the past two seasons, leading the team to top the National League West Division for two consecutive years.

BY KANG BYONG-CHOL [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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