LOS ANGELES -- Magic Johnson, the face of the new Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group, vows to bring change to a franchise that suffered a number of setbacks under the eight-year reign of former owner Frank McCourt.
Flashing his trademark smile at an introductory news conference on Wednesday, Johnson said: "Frank's not here anymore. We should be clapping for just that."
In a move that some will see as ironic, the Dodgers announced that general parking prices are being reduced from $15 to $10. McCourt's companies made much of their money in the parking lot business, and he still owns the rights to half the lots around Dodger Stadium.
"We're not here to gouge the fans just because we paid a nice sum for this franchise," Johnson said. "We're going to pour money into the team and the fan experience. We're here to win. We don't want the fans just because we wrote a big check we're going to stop now. We're going to write some other checks as Stan [Kasten] and Ned [Colletti] see where we need to improve. We're out to win and we want to win for the fans. I don't want that question like now we're short on money or something. That's not the case. I want everybody to understand I came here to win. It's a new day in Dodgertown here."
Johnson and Guggenheim Baseball Management partners Mark Walter and Stan Kasten took the podium in center field wearing matching blue ties.
Johnson, the former Lakers star and five-time NBA champion, spoke of his commitment to winning and restoring pride in the surrounding community. By the end of the event, he was donning a Dodgers cap and a white home jersey.
"I used to sit right there in the club level," Johnson said, pointing over his left shoulder. "We want to win on the field and want the fan to have the best experience they've ever had. ... I just want to win. And I want to do it the right way, do it with Dodger pride."
McCourt was barely mentioned by name during the media gathering, but Walter made it clear that his group isn't beholden to the former owner.
Every aspect of this operation in this ravine is managed and controlled by us," he said. "All of the revenues go to this organization. To be clear and not to be hiding anything, the former ownership does have an economic interest in the profits that might come from a potential development in the future. Other than that this is ours. This is our land and we manage it."
Said Johnson: "We own it 100 percent. We want to be clear with it. [McCourt] doesn't get a dime from the parking."
Walter, the group's controlling partner and chief executive officer, tried to deflect the attention.
"This is really not about us," Walter said. "This is about the Dodgers, the fans, the players and this community. We are passionate about making this organization the best it can be."
Later, he said: "I viewed it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own the probably the most fantastic franchise in all of sports. As I said before, it is a lot of money. But I believe the value is there. I believe if we do our jobs right, we build this franchise focusing first on the fans and the organization and take the long-time point of view, people will say the value was there."
Kasten, who will act as the president and CEO of the franchise, spoke passionately about improving the fan experience. He asked that fans send in suggestions through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We want to hear from all of you," Kasten said. "Tell us what you like, what you don't like."
The new ownership group, which also includes partners Peter Guber, Todd Boehly and Robert L. Patton Jr., posed for photos with former team president Peter O'Malley, who, upon his introduction by speaker Vin Scully, drew a loud ovation from those in attendance. Among the former players to attend were Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Eric Karros and Don Newcombe.
Scully joked: "I'm fed up. ... I'm telling each and every one of you right now, this is the last new ownership press conference I will ever attend."