Originally created 03/13/98

Dodgers introduce new management on eve of sale



LOS ANGELES -- In a sign Rupert Murdoch and Peter O'Malley expect the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to be approved next week, the sides signed their agreement and announced the team's future management Thursday.

Baseball owners are expected to approve the sale, valued at about $350 million, when they meet March 19 in St. Petersburg, Fla. That vote would end the 48-year reign of the O'Malley family and begin the start of control by the Fox Group, a division of Murdoch's News Corp.

"Fox will be an excellent owner for the Dodgers and they will make many contributions to the industry and the game of baseball," said O'Malley, who agreed to remain on as chairman through at least this season.

Bob Graziano, currently an executive vice president, would become president and chief executive officer upon approval, the team announced during a news conference at Dodger Stadium.

"Having worked alongside Peter for 12 years, I feel I've developed a strong understanding for what this transaction means to our fans, community and to the game of baseball," Graziano said.

Baseball's ownership committee gave the Fox Group and O'Malley permission on Wednesday to sign the sale agreement.

"We are sitting here today locked in with the management we think is critical for completing this transaction," Fox Group CEO Peter Chernin said. "We're committed to the Dodger tradition."

O'Malley, the last of baseball's family owners, announced on Jan. 6, 1996, that he was putting the team up for sale and said last Sept. 4 that he had struck an agreement with Fox. Since then, the deal has slowly worked its way through baseball's approval process.

"I think there'll be several clubs who'll vote against it," O'Malley said. "Nevertheless, I think the votes will be there."

O'Malley denied that the announcement was timed to influence the vote.

"There's no hidden agenda," he said, adding the step was taken because "the employees and everyone deserve to know" about the new Dodgers management.

O'Malley's father, Walter, was hired as the Brooklyn Dodgers' lawyer in 1942, began acquiring shares two years later and took control on Oct. 26, 1950. Within a year, he owned at least 67 percent of the stock, and after the 1957 season he moved the team to Los Angeles.

"It's really too soon to reflect on the past," O'Malley said. "Today my view is to the future. ... Bob will run the company ... and I will help in any way I can."

After this season, O'Malley said he would re-evaluate his position.

"Maybe I'd choose to do something else," he said.

The sale includes the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, the land the stadium sits on, the spring training complex in Vero Beach, Fla., and a training complex in the Dominican Republic.

Chernin said the Dodgers would have "fan-friendly prices," but he didn't not elaborate on how ticket prices might change.

"We knew it was coming. It's real now," said former manager Tom Lasorda, who appeared to become teary eyed as he listened to news conference in Vero Beach. Lasorda predicted Fox would "bring the Dodgers to a higher level, which Peter was unable to do because he was the sole owner."

The quality of management under O'Malley is unmatched, general manager Fred Claire said.

"It may never be there again," he said. "If it is, someone's going to have to have one heck of a 50-year run.