Published: November 2, 2011
Frank McCourt, the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Major League Baseball agreed late Tuesday on a plan to sell the iconic team, which filed for bankruptcy last June after Commissioner Bud Selig rejected its plan to sell its future TV rights.
Danny Moloshok/Associated Press
In a statement short on details, the Dodgers and M.L.B. said they had agreed to a “court supervised process to sell the team and its attendant media rights in a manner designed to realize maximum value for the Dodgers and their owner, Frank McCourt.”
McCourt will run the sale through his adviser, the Blackstone Group LP.
The settlement, which comes four weeks before a scheduled trial in bankruptcy court, appears to satisfy both sides. Selig gets McCourt out of baseball and can possibly steer the sale to a preferred buyer. Through court papers, he has accused McCourt of mismanaging the team into bankruptcy and diminishing its value.
McCourt had portrayed Selig’s refusal to let him sell his TV rights as proof that he was being treated unfairly compared with other owners. He loudly objected to Selig’s installation of a monitor to oversee the team’s finances and operations last spring, likening the action to a government’s eminent domain seizure of private property.
But McCourt needed the money denied him by Selig, and the settlement gives him a way out of his financial hole. The sale of the team will let him pay his wife, Jamie, a $130 million divorce settlement. He might even emerge with some profits.
The Dodgers and its assets could fetch at least $1 billion — despite a season in which attendance dropped so far that the team offered season ticket holders discounts of up to 60 percent to renew their seats next season.
Marc Ganis, a sports industry consultant, said: “Frank McCourt no longer being owner of the Dodgers was inevitable from the moment he and his wife began their nasty divorce battle. Frank did not want to recognize this reality, but it appears he has finally come to terms with it.”
Spokesmen for the Dodgers and M.L.B. declined to comment.
The hostilities between baseball and the Dodgers reached their peak in June when Selig spurned McCourt’s attempt to extend his team’s rights with Fox’s Prime Ticket cable channel for 17 years for at least $2 billion, including a $385 million upfront payment.
Soon after, the Dodgers filed for bankruptcy. But as recently as last week, the rancor was still evident. Baseball accused McCourt of siphoning $189 million from the team. The Dodgers denied the claim.
The joint statement by the Dodgers and M.L.B. did not specify the role Fox will play in the sale of the media rights. Fox’s existing deal with the Dodgers ends in 2013, and it was hoping to renew the contract during an exclusive negotiating period late next year.
And when the Dodgers recently sought the bankruptcy court’s approval to auction its media rights as soon as possible — believing it would have many suitors seeking to pay far more than the current deal — Fox sued the team saying that it would violate its contract. A Fox spokesman did not return a message seeking a comment.
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