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Baseball team to be sold for $2bn

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has announced an agreement to sell the bankrupt baseball team for two billion dollars (£1.25 billion) to a group that includes former LA Lakers basketball star Magic Johnson.

The agreement, revealed about five hours after Major League Baseball owners approved three finalists for the auction, is to lead to a transfer of the team by the end of April. It is subject to approval in federal bankruptcy court.

Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would become the controlling owner. The price would be easily a record for a North American sports franchise.

"I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles," Johnson said in a statement.

As part of the agreement, the Dodgers said Mr McCourt and "certain affiliates of the purchasers" would acquire the land surrounding Dodger Stadium for 150 million dollars (£94 million).

The acquiring group, called Guggenheim Baseball Management, includes Mandalay Entertainment chief executive Peter Guber, and Stan Kasten, former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals baseball teams, who is expected to become the team's senior day-to-day executive.

"This agreement with Guggenheim reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community," Mr McCourt said.

He paid 430 million dollars in 2004 to buy the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that include the car parks, from the Fox division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, a sale that left the team with about 50 million dollars in cash at the time.

The team's debt stood at 579 million dollars (£363 million) as of January, according to a court filing, so even after the divorce payment, taxes and legal and banking fees, he stands to make several hundred million dollars.

The Guggenheim team beat two other bidders, including Stan Kroenke, majority shareholder of Arsenal FC as well as owner of a series of US sports franchises.

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