Rupe heads for home

O'Malley close to swinging at $350 mil pitch

A day after News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch confirmed at a Tokyo news conference that he was trying to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, sources said both sides seem happy with the terms on the table and are committed to seeing the deal through.

The $350-million deal would give Murdoch’s News Corp. the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding Elysian Park land, and training facilities in Vero Beach, Fla., and the Dominican Republic.

“Both of them are motivated,” said one TV industry source. “Rupert wants to use the Dodgers to gain a toehold in American sports. O’Malley wants value for his holdings, and I think it’s a plus that he’s selling to a man who might frighten the same bureaucrats who kept him from building a football stadium next to Dodger Stadium.

“O’Malley must be thinking, ‘So, you don’t want to work with me, huh? Fine. Now you’ve got to deal with Rupert.’ ”

Indeed, part of Murdoch’s interest in the deal is that it will make it easier for him to build a football facility and eventually lure an NFL team to Los Angeles. It also can’t help but boost the stock of his TV sports holdings. The Fox network currently broadcasts professional baseball, football and hockey.

“The synergy for Murdoch is irresistible,” said Bob Gutkowski, prexy and CEO of the New York-based TV sports production company, the Marquee Group. “Globally, he’s done well to own both the sports franchise and the distribution.”

Not everyone, however, is enamored by a Murdoch-owned Dodgers scenario. One prominent feature director has antitrust and monopoly questions about the man who owns Fox Broadcasting Co. and a team that plays its games on the network.

“Movie studios aren’t allowed to own movie theaters for that same reason, and I just don’t see the difference,” the director said.

And, of course, even when deals appear to be complete in Murdoch’s world, they can unravel. Witness the on-the-rocks merger of direct broadcast satcaster EchoStar with Murdoch’s AskyB satellite venture.

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