Joe Torre stepped down Wednesday from his post as Major League Baseball's executive vice president for baseball operations, both sides announced, so that he could dedicate himself full-time to pursuing ownership of the Dodgers.
Torre, 71, the Yankees' manager from 1996-2007, officially has joined the group of real estate developer Rick Caruso. If the group succeeds in purchasing the Dodgers from beleaguered owner Frank McCourt, then Torre, who managed the team from 2008-10, would likely oversee its baseball operations.
"In Rick I found a partner who understands consumers and fully appreciates that the Dodgers are a treasured L.A. institution," Torre said in a statement. "Since moving to Los Angeles, I have seen firsthand Rick's dedication to business and the people of Los Angeles."
The idea of an ownership stake in the Dodgers has intrigued Torre since his days managing them, when McCourt's divorce cast doubt about his future viability as an owner. Initial bids are due Jan. 23, and according to the terms of an agreement that McCourt cut with MLB, McCourt must choose a winner of the sweepstakes by April 30. All franchise sales must be approved by 75 percent of the other 29 owners.
The Dodgers, despite the damage they have suffered under McCourt's watch, are expected to set a record for a baseball sale; the Cubs, sold to the Ricketts family in 2009 for $845 million, hold the mark. Although Torre's presence would appeal greatly to central baseball, there looks to be a fierce competition for ownership control.
Among those reported to be interested in purchasing the Dodgers are hedge fund magnate Steve Cohen (who also tried to buy the Mets); a group featuring basketball great Magic Johnson and former Braves and Nationals executive Stan Kasten; former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley; Dodgers greats Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser; former Dodgers general manager Fred Claire; and a group including White Sox executive Dennis Gilbert (who tried to purchase the Rangers last year) and former talk-show host Larry King.
Said Caruso, in a statement: "Joe has a proven track record of fielding winning teams, and I am looking forward to our group benefiting from his unique experience. I am a lifelong Angeleno; I love this city and have dedicated my career to creating world-class destinations that support this community and foster great customer experiences. Joe and I believe in the Dodgers and Dodger fans and know that together we will foster a winning culture."
The MLB post essentially served as a layover for Torre, who accepted the job in February 2011. In overseeing umpires and discipline for on-field matters, he gave the job star power it had not had. He also further solidified his once-broken relationship with the Yankees, attending his first Old-Timers' Day since his departure as manager.
Torre's new pursuit will allow him to spend the bulk of his time in Los Angeles, where he moved his family after taking the Dodgers' managing job. In his MLB post, Torre traveled significantly and spent much time at baseball's New York office.