Now Daly is moving from the bleachers to big-league power with the team he idolizes, buying a stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers and taking over as chairman and chief executive officer.
Daly inherits a team on the skids just weeks after he ended a remarkable run as co-chief at Warner Bros., building the studio into one of Hollywood's most profitable and consistent performers over the last two decades.
While success in Hollywood will not automatically translate into success in baseball, Daly said he plans to apply the same personal touch to the Dodgers as he did at Warner.
"I knew everybody at Warner Bros. I knew the gardeners, I knew the guards at the gate," Daly said. "I want us here, the guards, everyone who works for the Dodgers, to have a great feeling."
Daly built a reputation as a cooperative, nurturing boss at Warner, where he took over in 1980 and shared leadership for much of his time there with Terry Semel. The two stepped down as Warner co-chairmen early this month.
Tommy LaSorda, former Dodgers manager and a longtime friend of Daly, said he hopes Daly's positive attitude proves infectious for the team.
"I remember when I was a boy reading a box of Carnation Instant Milk that said, 'Contented cows give better milk,"' LaSorda said. "I'm under the impression contented people do better in their jobs. I think that's what Bob's objective is."
A Dodgers fan since he was 6, Daly said he was heartbroken when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. Daly followed the team to Los Angeles in 1977, when he was named president of CBS Entertainment.
The network owned the New York Yankees for a good chunk of Daly's 25-year tenure at CBS before selling the team to a group led by George Steinbrenner in 1973. Daly became loosely affiliated with Major League Baseball again in 1996 when Time Warner, the studio's owner, acquired the Atlanta Braves in its purchase of Turner Broadcasting.
"Running a ball club is kind of a dream second career a lot of executives have," said David Davis, an entertainment industry analyst with investment banker Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin.
Much of Daly's experience running a studio will translate to heading a baseball team, Davis said. During the Daly-Semel era, revenues from Warner's film and TV operations rose from less tha $1 billion in 1980 to about $6 billion last year.
"Entertainment and sports have converged in having many of the same kinds of issues," Davis said. "Negotiating TV deals, maximizing profitability, negotiating with talent who are getting a higher and higher percentage of the gross."
The Dodgers have fared poorly since the team was bought last year by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., finishing third in the National League West despite having one of baseball's highest payrolls.
Buying a piece of the Dodgers, reportedly a 10 percent share, gives Daly greater incentive to turn the team around.
"If we don't do well, I'm going to lose money," Daly said.
As he did in the entertainment business, Daly will be dealing with similar issues, including high-priced talent, big egos and tough deal-making. In some ways, he said, the economics of baseball are trickier than running a studio.
A successful movie can bring revenues to a studio for decades to come, while the success of a sports team can be fleeting and depend on the health of the athletes, Daly said.
"With movies, you own the negative," Daly said. Baseball "probably is more difficult because there is no residual value other than the franchise."
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