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Frank McCourt got $30-million loan to meet Dodgers payroll

Sources say the money from Fox went directly to the team's owner instead of through the club to circumvent Commissioner Bud Selig.

April 16, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has received money from Fox to cover expenses for the second time since the end of last season.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has received money from Fox to cover expenses… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

Frank McCourt took a $30-million loan from Fox to meet the Dodgers' payroll obligations last week, according to three people briefed on the arrangement.

The money is expected to cover the Dodgers' expenses into next month. Commissioner Bud Selig has yet to say whether he will approve a proposed television contract between Fox and the Dodgers, which McCourt has presented as a long-term solution to the team's financial troubles.

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The loan marks the second time since the end of last season that Fox has provided money to the Dodgers owner so he could cover expenses.

The loan was furnished to McCourt personally rather than to the debt-strapped Dodgers, so the arrangement did not require Selig's approval, according to the people briefed on the deal.

Those people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

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Steve Sugerman, a spokesman for McCourt, declined to confirm the deal or discuss its terms.

"The team is meeting its financial obligations as it always has," Sugerman said, "and will continue to do so."

Major League Baseball had no comment, spokesman Pat Courtney said. A Fox spokesman did not return calls for comment.

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The Dodgers met the first payroll of the season Friday. The loan is expected to carry the Dodgers through the April 30 payroll as well.

It is uncertain how long the Dodgers can operate with short-term financial assistance from Fox, or whether McCourt can obtain financing from another source. It also is uncertain whether Selig plans to accept or reject the proposed long-term television deal before payroll comes due in May.

It is unclear what McCourt pledged as collateral for the $30-million loan. Selig previously rejected a proposal for Fox to lend about $200 million to the Dodgers, using the club's television rights as collateral.

The short-term financing picture is clouded by the Dodgers' drop in attendance. The Dodgers' announced attendance through the first six home games — an admittedly small sample — fell 8% from last year.

The Dodgers announced they had sold 36,282 tickets to Friday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the smallest total for a Friday night home game in eight years.

McCourt's representatives met with Selig's lieutenants April 5, seeking approval of a long-term television contract with Fox. That contract would be worth at least $3 billion over 20 years, money that McCourt believes could enable him to settle his divorce, manage his debts and improve the team.

Marc Ganis, a sports industry consultant and president of Chicago-based Sportscorp Ltd., said Selig might be in no hurry to accept or reject that contract. Selig has declined to comment on the Dodgers ownership situation, but multiple baseball executives who have spoken with him say he would prefer to see new ownership in Los Angeles.

If McCourt fails to meet his financial obligations, Ganis said, Selig might be able to set an ownership change in motion without risking a confrontation over the long-term television contract.

"I suspect the reason Bud has not moved on it," Ganis said, "is because he has chosen not to do so."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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