- Early bids reflect Dodgers' "enormous value," a team spokesperson says
- Bidders include Magic Johnson, Larry King, Steve Garvey and Joe Torre
- The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy last year
- Owner Frank McCourt is in the middle of an expensive divorce
The troubled Los Angeles Dodgers, one of baseball's most storied franchises, began receiving bids from potential buyers this week in a sale that's expected to set a Major League record at more than $1 billion.
The field of potential buyers includes famous retired athletes, a talk show host and a former owner, CNN has confirmed.
"The preliminary bids submitted Monday reflect significant interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise and its enormous value," a team spokesperson said Thursday in an e-mail to CNN.
Among the bidding groups are retired Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson and former Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals executive Stan Kasten; former CNN talk show host Larry King and agent Dennis Gilbert; former Dodger stars Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser; former Dodger and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre; Los Angeles shopping center developer Rick Caruso; and former Dodger owner Peter O'Malley.
"It's impossible to explain: it's a valued franchise," King said. "They and the Yankees are the most famous franchises in sports in America."
Said Garvey said in an interview with CNN: "We want to make it cost-effective. We want to bring it back to life. We want to make sure the culture within, inside the stadium, is reverent. You cheer for your team, and you accept the others."
Garvey's last comment was referring to fan complaints about safety and security at the ballpark -- especially in the aftermath of the brutal beating on opening day last year of a visiting San Francisco Giants fan, who was in a coma and is now recovering from brain injuries.
The family of fan Bryan Stow, a paramedic from Santa Cruz, California, is now suing the team.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, known for being understated, looked pleased when CNN asked him about the financial heft of the bidders: "They are doing OK," he said.
"You look at the quality of the people in each group, and they're very, very good -- excellent," Selig said.
Finances have been a problem for the team.
Six-time World Series champions, the Dodgers filed for bankruptcy last June. Earlier, in April, the league took charge of the financially troubled team.
Adding to the team's woes are the acrimonious divorce proceedings between Frank McCourt -- the current owner -- and Jamie McCourt.
Attorneys' fees for both sides in the divorce could reach $35 million -- more than what the Dodgers pay any player -- and Jamie McCourt's attorneys said that figure is unheard of in California divorces, even with its share of expensive celebrity divorces.
Despite the financial and public relations problems, analysts say the team is expected to fetch more than $1 billion, breaking the record set in 2009 by the Chicago Cubs, which sold for $845 million.
"So much money is coming into this, really, whoever gets it, the Dodgers will be really happy," Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated told CNN. "In terms of fans, I think it will be a quick fix. Whoever replaces Frank McCourt will be so good by comparison."
Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who's a special adviser to the Dodgers, said he hopes the new owner will bring another championship to the team. The last time the Dodgers won the World Series was in 1988, when Lasorda was the manager. Lasorda isn't a bidder.
"We're just waiting like anyone else. Who is going to be the winner?" Lasorda told CNN. "Go out and get ballplayers. Do everything they can to give our fans -- who are the greatest fans in all of baseball -- give them a chance to see a championship team again."
Dodger centerfielder Matt Kemp also wants to see a successful post-season.
"It doesn't really matter to me who takes over this team, as long as they have the same thing in mind, and that is winning," Kemp told CNN.
When contacted by CNN, a McCourt spokesman said the owner didn't have an immediate comment Thursday.
With Selig's approval, McCourt is expected to settle on a buyer by April 30.