Change in sale process for Dodgers?

The process of selling the Los Angeles Dodgers will deviate slightly from the norm, according to three sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity. In this case, Major League Baseball's vetting of groups or individuals who apply to buy the club, which normally is one of the final steps in the process, will instead be one of the initial steps.

This change was agreed upon by Frank McCourt, the current owner of the club who announced last week his intention to sell, and MLB.

What will happen now is that MLB will sort through all the applicants once all those applications have been submitted -- it isn't immediately clear how long those applicants have to submit their applications -- and come up with a list of approved applicants to submit to the Blackstone Group, the New York investment firm of which McCourt is a client and which will be handling the sale for McCourt.

Once that process is complete, McCourt then will have the final say -- or something close to the final say -- on which person or group he wants to sell the Dodgers to. Presumably, because each of those entities already will have gained the initial approval of MLB and commissioner Bud Selig, McCourt simply would choose the entity submitting the highest bid for the club, essentially making the process a de facto auction. However, theoretically, McCourt could choose a buyer based on other criteria.

Even after that, though, the buyer McCourt chooses still would have to be approved by three-fourths of the owners of the other 29 major league clubs. But that process usually is nothing more than a formality. Typically, potential new owners or ownership groups aren't submitted to all the existing owners for final approval until Selig feels confident that sufficient votes for approval have been secured. Those votes presumably will be secured early in the process while MLB is still engaged in its initial vetting of applicants.

It also isn't immediately clear whether there is a minimum number of applicants that MLB must approve and submit to McCourt and Blackstone, but one source said it would be a "reasonable" number, meaning MLB couldn't simply handpick the next owner by approving only one applicant. Although several individuals and groups already have gone public with their interest in buying the club, that list of applicants figures to dwindle to no more than a handful -- perhaps five, one source estimated -- who actually file applications because of the tremendous amount of money that must be secured in order to submit a worthy bid.

Based on numerous media reports, the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding real estate, all of which McCourt has agreed to sell, are expected to fetch anywhere from $800 million to $1.2 billion as a purchase price. That doesn't include the cost of actually running the club, money any serious buyer also would need to secure before putting in an application and proving itself worthy to MLB.

At first glance, this change in the chronology of the process would seem to have the potential of expediting the entire process and getting the franchise into new hands more quickly, possibly by the start of next season. For one, it eliminates any chance that McCourt will settle on a buyer only to have that buyer rejected by MLB, something that would have caused the process to drag on.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.