This week a consortium of investors, businessmen, baseball executives and a magic giant officially completed their purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers who, unlike the Los Angeles Angels, actually play in Los Angeles. But if these savvy business pros want to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of American capitalism, where apparently the eating of dogs by dogs is a metaphor for behaving like assholes, they should heed the lessons of former owner Frank McCourt, author of the best-selling memoir and presciently-titled, “Angeles Ashes”:
BUY A BRAND-NAME COMPANY. It’s easy! They’re all around you, from names that are synonymous with wholesome goodness, like Kellogg’s, to the opposite, like Trump. But here’s the best part:
DON’T USE YOUR OWN MONEY. This is key! In 2004, McCourt bought the Dodgers for $421 million, all of it borrowed. CONGRATULATIONS! YOU NOW OWN A HEAVILY IN-DEBT BUSINESS! So the first thing you need to do before those scheduled interest payments start bleeding you like a medieval surgeon is:
PAY YOURSELF A HANDSOME SALARY. McCourt took home $5 million annually for overseeing the “overall business” of the Dodgers, and paid his wife $2 million a year for acting as CEO when she wasn’t sleeping with her driver, also on the Dodger payroll. (NOTE: Your actual marital infidelity may vary.)
DON’T NEGLECT THE CHILDREN. It’s as American as shooting an apple pie with a rifle: summer jobs for your kids. They have to learn responsibility somehow and what better way than to pay them $600,000 a year? Despite the fact that one had a full-time job at Goldman Sachs and the other was still attending school at Stanford. With so much cash flowing out of the company and into the family trust, now what else can you do but:
RAISE PRICES, on everything from parking to souvenirs to “Dodger Dogs” made of actual former Dodger players. Next, START CUTTING EXPENSES, like player salaries, because when your team hasn’t been to the World Series since 1988, why waste money on trying? Now you’re ready to:
LOOT THE BUSINESS. As the rapacious owner of a heavily leveraged corporation, you have an obligation to pull as much money out of it as you can before the whole thing collapses like a racehorse on Luck. In most cases, you will pay yourself back your initial investment as soon as possible with first-dollar revenue; now you are “even”—having made back your initial investment…and YOU STILL OWN THE COMPANY. But the McCourts, because they bought entirely on layaway, had no investment to recoup, so the estimated $140 million they pulled out of the Dodgers with all the finesse of a drive-by colonoscopy was pure capitalist gravy. Now you’re playing with “house” money, so it won’t matter if you continue to:
DECIMATE YOUR COMPANY, which now owes more than it’s worth and can be broken up and sold for parts. In the case of the Dodgers, McCourt, having enriched himself while presiding over epic serial failure and driving one of the most famous names in baseball into bankruptcy, still stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the sale of a team he bought using none of his own money. GOD BLESS AMERICA!
What Frank McCourt did to the Dodgers is no anomaly; it’s what Sam Zell did to the Chicago Tribune, private equity firm Wasserstein & Co. did to the 101-year-old Harry & David, and Bain Capital did to nearly one-quarter of the companies they invested in: fire workers, loot pension plans, increase debt, and drive profitable companies into bankruptcy while taking billions for themselves. Then, like a planet eater on Star Trek, move on to the next company to plunder and annihilate, or in the case of the guy who once ran Bain, the presidency, where his plan is more deregulation for better plundering, lower taxes for his friends, and continuing to be “not concerned about the very poor.”
The LIE of American capitalism is that it’s about investment, or hard work, or great ideas, or the sweat equity that goes into building a business from the ground up…when the business model is really the same as a serial killer who preys on hookers: pay for it, ruin it so it’s unrecognizable, take all the money, cut it up and dump it.
But this time the hooker got away! The McCourts are gone, the new owners seem almost lifelike, and the Dodgers are off to their best start since 1981, when they won the World Series. And if you can’t root for underdogs, and hookers…well, that’s just un-American.