Rupe deal in the clear

No major opposition expected in Dodgers vote

With the 16 National League and 14 American League team owners meeting today in St. Petersburg, Fla., in advance of Thursday’s vote on the proposed sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Group, no significant opposition appears to exist that would block the deal in the 11th hour.

Yet pockets of resistance among the Major League Baseball owners clearly exist, and no one was implying on Tuesday that approval would be a slam-dunk.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” one Fox executive said, “but you never know with these things until you count up the votes. Everyone sweats until it’s done.”

The agreement transferring ownership of the Dodgers from Peter O’Malley to Murdoch’s group requires a majority approval of the 14 American League owners (or eight votes in favor) and a three-quarters majority of the 16 team owners in the National League (or 12 in support). It’s expected to sail easily through the AL but could run into roadblocks in the NL, where five opposing votes would quash the deal.

San Diego Padres owner John Moores has voiced his concern over O’Malley’s selling the team to Murdoch and is likely to vote against it. Others who are rumored to be on the fence include the San Francisco Giants, the Houston Astros, the Chicago Cubs, the Florida Marlins and the Atlanta Braves, whose longtime owner Ted Turner is a notorious Murdoch antagonist.

However, Turner understands that his Turner Broadcasting/Time Warner cable empire is so ensnared with Murdoch’s cable sports properties that the two must somehow harmoniously co-exist, working against the likelihood of his voting down Murdoch.

While Major League officials have expressed optimism that the sale will go through despite concern that Murdoch holds cable contracts with 22 of the 30 big-league teams, baseball’s ownership committee has notably opted not to make a recommendation one way or the other to the voting owners.

Said an official in the MLB offices: “Most owners we’ve spoken to have pledged their support for the sale. But you learn not to predict things. This is an independently thinking group of people, and they aren’t in the habit of tipping their hand.”

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