Larry King, the legendary talk-show host who has a small stake in one of the investment groups seeking to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, ripped outgoing Dodgers owner Frank McCourt during an interview with 710 ESPN's Steve Mason and John Ireland on Wednesday, saying McCourt has "destroyed" the storied franchise.
"He has destroyed this team, and it is just sad to me to see what has happened to it," said King, who is part of a group headed by Chicago White Sox executive and Beverly Hills insurance agent Dennis Gilbert.
King, a longtime Dodgers season-ticket holder and a visible presence in the Dugout Club seats at many home games, said McCourt's biggest failure was that he became too enamored of the trappings of being the owner of the club at the expense of his responsibility to put a competitive team on the field.
"I think Frank got caught up in the L.A. aspect of the life," King said. "The Dodgers became secondary to the ... lifestyle of being Frank McCourt, Dodger owner. He liked that image of walking into a room. Basically, he is a nice guy, I don't think he is an owner. I just don't think he is cut out to own a baseball team. He is cut out to be a real estate guy who does deals. He is a deal guy … .
"I am a fan. I'm paying over $300 a seat for every game, I have six seats. I'm putting this money into the team, I hope they do well. I would like to see the owner do well. But instead of bidding for the top free agents, he's buying another house. ... If I run into Frank, I'm kind, I smile and I say hello, and he says hello. He has been to my house for dinner when he first got the team. But ... he's not cut out to be an owner, and I think the league made a mistake, frankly, in giving him the franchise."
King, who also was part of a Gilbert-led group that tried to buy the Texas Rangers when that club was in bankruptcy more than a year ago, confirmed that his financial stake in the group is comparatively small. The primary backing for the group comes from Jason Reese and Randy Wooster, two top executives with Imperial Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment bank.
King, who said he has been a Dodgers fan since his uncle took him to his first Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field in 1943, added that improvements to 50-year-old Dodger Stadium should be first on the new owner's list of priorities.
"It is still a great stadium, but it needs work," he said. "I want to see the Dodgers come first. If we own the team today, I think we should go into hock to try to get anybody we can get that is at the top of that [free-agent] list," including, he added, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
"If the club costs a billion, you're going to have to put another hundred, $200 million into this, because this is a franchise that demands a winner. This is L.A. This is not some small little hick town. This is L.A., and L.A. deserves the best. I think that should be our goal."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.