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MLB monitoring McCourts' fight for control of the Dodgers

Commissioner's office expects little effect on the day-to-day operation of the team despite the battle taking shape between Frank and Jamie McCourt, who have separated.

October 25, 2009|Bill Shaikin

NEW YORK — With the fight for ownership of the Dodgers expected to hit the courts this week, the commissioner's office is monitoring the proceedings but expecting little effect on the daily operations of the club.

Frank McCourt, who asserts he is the sole owner of the Dodgers, fired his estranged wife, Jamie, as the team's chief executive Wednesday. Jamie McCourt, who claims she is a co-owner of the team, is expected to respond by initiating legal proceedings this week.

"Obviously, there's a disruption there," said Bob DuPuy, president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball. "The team is being operated just fine."

Although the ownership of one of baseball's storied franchises could be a focus of a lengthy and high-profile divorce case, the commissioner's office has not encouraged the McCourts to consider selling the team, DuPuy said.

"That has never been discussed," DuPuy said here Saturday, before the Angels and New York Yankees were rained out in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

DuPuy noted the Dodgers had signed General Manager Ned Colletti to a multiyear contract extension last week and said he did not anticipate the ownership battle would affect the team's ability to proceed with salary arbitration and free agency this winter.

The Dodgers cut their player payroll by about $20 million last winter and are not expected to raise the payroll this winter, even with $17 million in savings from the expiring contract of Jason Schmidt ($12 million) and the lower salary of Manny Ramirez ($25 million this year, $20 million next year).

The bulk of those savings is expected to be allotted toward raises for core players eligible for salary arbitration, including outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, first baseman James Loney, catcher Russell Martin and pitchers Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and George Sherrill.

The Dodgers froze prices on season tickets last winter and have done so again this winter, with attendance up by less than 1% this season. They had planned not to raise payroll this winter long before the McCourts announced their separation last week.

Dennis Mannion, who was promoted to club president in March, already had taken control of the Dodgers' day-to-day operations. Colletti said he did not expect the battle for ownership of the franchise to hamper his efforts to assemble next year's team.

"I don't anticipate that it will," Colletti said. "I don't know for sure, but there hasn't been any change in how we do business in the last few weeks or months."

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Times staff writer Dylan Hernandez in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The owners

Dodgers ownership changes since Walter O'Malley became sole owner of the franchise in 1975. Information, including that in the Jan. 29, 2004, entry is taken from the Dodgers' official website: dodgers.com

JAN. 29, 2004

>>>Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, purchase a controlling interest of the Dodgers from Fox Entertainment Group and Robert Daly.

OCT. 28, 1999

>>>Robert Daly acquires a minority stake in the Dodgers from Fox Entertainment Group and is named managing partner, chairman and CEO.

MARCH 19, 1998

>>>Fox Entertainment Group, owned by News Corp., purchases the Dodgers from Peter O'Malley and Terry Seidler. Bob Graziano is named president of the ballclub.

AUG. 9, 1979

>>>Walter O'Malley dies, 28 days after the death of his wife, Kay, and ownership of the Dodgers is assumed by Peter O'Malley and his sister, Terry Seidler.

1975

>>>Walter O'Malley acquires the remaining 33 1/3 % of the Dodgers and owns 100% of the franchise.

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Source: dodgers.com

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