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Dodger Sale Is Set for an OK

Owners are expected to approve McCourt's restructured purchase before the Jan. 31 deadline but not at a meeting next week.

January 10, 2004|Ross Newhan | Times Staff Writer

The sale of the Dodgers to Boston real estate developer Frank McCourt will not be voted on during an owners' meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Wednesday and Thursday, but it is expected to be approved in a conference call of owners before the deadline of Jan. 31, major league officials said Friday.

"The sale is proceeding," Robert DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said from New York. "I assume now that it can be accomplished by the end of the month. I'm optimistic that can be done."

DuPuy and other officials wouldn't discuss specifics, but they agreed that a review of McCourt's application during a meeting Friday with major league officials and McCourt and his wife, Jamie, in Phoenix was "very positive." DuPuy said they "didn't expect any obstacles now" to the $430-million deal with News Corp., the current Dodger owner.

Although there has been concern in baseball about McCourt's highly leveraged proposal and his ability to operate the club while servicing the debt, sources familiar with the situation said it had undergone enough restructuring to bring it more in line with baseball requirements, including the debt-servicing rule.

Joining the McCourts at the Phoenix meeting were longtime Atlanta Brave executive Bill Bartholomay, chairman of the ownership committee; Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf; Major League Baseball's chief financial officer, Jonathan Mariner, and Gary Ehrlich, executive vice president of Fox Sports Enterprises and News Corp.'s point man in the sale. DuPuy and baseball lawyer Tom Ostertag participated by phone from New York.

McCourt's agreement in principal with News Corp. calls for completion of the transaction by Jan. 31. He will lose his period of exclusivity and have to pay a penalty if the deal is not completed by then.

Major league officials said they had hoped to have a vote on the sale at the meeting in Arizona on Wednesday and Thursday -- it requires approval of 75% of the 30 clubs -- but that the holidays, DuPuy's recent leg surgery and the need to restructure parts of the proposal delayed the process.

The officials said that the application would be presented to the full ownership committee and the Executive Council on Wednesday night, discussed by the full ownership Thursday and voted on in a conference call before the deadline. Commissioner Bud Selig, reached in Milwaukee, said he had not set a date for the call, but a major league official said it probably would be late in the month.

Selig seldom calls for a vote unless he knows the outcome and it would be a surprise if a conference call produced a rejection, although there has been some speculation that the commissioner -- intent on satisfying News Corp.'s determination to sell the team after a protracted process in which negotiations with two other bidders, Dave Checketts and Malcolm Glazer, ultimately broke down -- would usher it through the full course and then let the owners decide if there were reason to be concerned about the financing.

McCourt was not included on Forbes' most recent list of the 400 richest Americans (requiring a net worth of $600 million) and was a distant loser in bidding for the Boston Red Sox, but he owns valuable waterfront property in Boston that he reportedly is using as collateral in financing the acquisition.

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