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Fox, Dodgers reach agreement in principle on sale

September 4, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Group announced a deal Thursday to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving the media mogul control of baseball’s last family-owned team.

The agreement, reached during discussions in Los Angeles last weekend, still is subject to approval by baseball team owners. The purchase price, widely expected to be $350 million, was not disclosed.

If the deal goes through, the Dodgers would become part of a worldwide empire that includes newspapers, the Fox television network, cable and satellite operations on six continents.

``I believe Fox Group will be an outstanding owner of the Dodgers,″ Peter O’Malley, who has agreed to remain as Dodgers president, said in a statement.

``Their support of major league baseball and their commitment to the community is extraordinary,″ he said.

The announcement was bad news to Jack Skelley, a lifelong fan who fears Murdoch will use the team to push his media interests.

``I think it’s sad,″ said Skelley, 41, while at Dodger Stadium to buy advance tickets. ``You’ll probably see ads for Melrose Place and Homer Simpson (hot) dogs. They’ll want to put Fox logos on everything.″

The deal provides Murdoch with a continuing supply of content not only for his Fox Sports operations, but also for his television ventures in Asia, where the Dodgers have established a fan base with the signing of Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo and Korean Chan Ho Park.

Owning the Dodgers also fits Murdoch’s venture with Tele-Communications Inc. to form a sports network to challenge Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN.

``We are very excited with the potential opportunity for carrying on one of the greatest winning traditions in all of sports,″ said Peter Chernin, chairman and chief executive of Fox Group, a subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corp.

``The O’Malleys have set a gold standard for franchise ownership and if we are approved, we will do all in our power to live up to that standard,″ he said.

The agreement now goes to major league baseball’s eight-member ownership committee for preliminary approval. If that is granted, the sale must be approved by three-fourths of the National League club owners and a simple majority of American League owners.

The vote would likely come when the owners meet in Phoenix Jan. 13-15. An owners meeting is scheduled Sept. 16-18 in Atlanta, but the agenda for that meeting focuses exclusively on realignment of the league.

Initially, at least, the change of ownership is likely to have little impact on Dodger operations. O’Malley, whose father bought the team in 1950, has agreed to stay on for an indefinite period. The rest of the Dodgers’ front office also has been invited to continue, including general manager Fred Claire.

The Dodgers purchase is one in a series of recently announced Murdoch acquisitions that includes $1.7 billion for International Family Entertainment, parent of the Family Channel.

The Dodgers had a 1 1/2-game lead Thursday over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

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