A $20 billion plan that includes the LA Dodgers is said to be aimed at helping insurers if credit markets sour: WSJ
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New Dodgers owners of Guggenheim Baseball Management, LLC – (from left) Stan Kasten, Mark Walter, Earvin Magic Johnson, Peter Guber, and Todd Boehly during the press conference to introduce the new owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA.
The CEO of Guggenheim Partners and his business associates are pledging more than $20 billion of their personal wealth to backstop insurers associated with the purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers, if those firms run into financial troubles, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The highly unusual arrangement, detailed by The Journal in a published report on Saturday, comes six years after regulators questioned an arrangement under which the insurers contributed money that allowed Mark Walter and a group of co-investors to buy the professional baseball team back in 2012, for what was a record-breaking $2.15 billion. The insurers provided at least $300 million to help Walter and several co-investors buy the team, according to the report.
What makes the situation even more interesting is that Walter’s associates included Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Guggenheim’s ex-president Todd Boehly, the publication reported. Both men have ownership stakes in the Dodgers.
In what S&P Global Ratings senior analyst Deep Banerjee told The WSJ was “an unusual concept,” the group is using a structure called Safe Harbor to provide the funds. The Journal could find no insurance filings referencing Safe Harbor, and Guggenheim declined to provide information on how it was valued.
However, Guggenheim outside lawyer Dan K. Webb, said the arrangement makes the Guggenheim-affiliated insurers “likely among the safest” in the country, according to the WSJ. Walter told the Journal that the deal is designed to protect policyholders, and eliminate possible conflicts of interest.
Among the assets pledged through Safe Harbor include stakes in the Dodgers, another firm that operates one of the biggest Wendy’s hamburger franchises in the country, and shares in Carvana, an online car dealer.
Guggenheim’s Dodgers connection came under scrutiny after two annuity holders sued back in 2014, accusing the firm of using the insurance companies to buy the Dodgers, and hiding the transactions in regulatory filings. The suit was quickly withdrawn, but did attract scrutiny from regulators, who ultimately concluded nothing was amiss.
Walter told the Journal that Safe Harbor’s purpose is to provide security in the event credit markets turn sour. The vehicle makes off-balance-sheet investments in higher yielding instruments that aren’t typical for insurance companies, whose risk-taking is limited generally to investment-grade bonds.
Guggenheim did not respond to a CNBC request for additional comment.
Correction: Dan Webb is a lawyer for Guggenheim.
The Journal’s full report can be found on its website.