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Q & A with Frank McCourt: 'I have just begun to fight'

In an interview with Times staff writer Bill Shaikin, McCourt vows to keep control of the Dodgers, apologizes to fans and says the Fox transaction would solve the team's financial difficulties. He says MLB called the Dodgers a model franchise only last year.

April 29, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is interviewed by reporters in his office Friday.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is interviewed by reporters in his office Friday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt sat for an interview Friday with Times staff writer Bill Shaikin. The transcript follows:

Q: You said the other day you would be receptive to Mr. Schieffer (the trustee appointed by Commissioner Bud Selig) coming in to help the Dodgers but not to "somebody coming in and controlling my business." You had the chance to meet him for the first time today. What do you take his role to be, and what do you take your role to be?

A: It's unclear to me. I had a very cordial meeting with Tom. We were both very respectful of one another. We both understand this isn't personal.

I asked him that very question, in terms of his role and his responsibility. It will be something I will react to accordingly. That said, I told him that he would receive cooperation from everybody here.

We want this investigation completed as soon as possible, notwithstanding the fact that we don't think there is a reason for the investigation. We certainly want to move quickly through this. He confirmed for me that people here have been cooperating, and we agreed to talk further about his role and responsibility.

Q: You mentioned that you did not see the need for an investigation, and you have said many times that the commissioner has not afforded you the opportunity to meet with him. That said, when the commissioner announced he would oversee the club and investigate its finances, he sent you a letter detailing his concerns. What is his case?

A: The investigation is going to show that the Dodgers have a cash requirement in 2011. This is not something new. This is something we shared with baseball a long time ago. It's been part of our financial plan, our financial model.

We met with baseball back in May of last year and outlined our plans going forward, and we received their blessing for our plans. At the time, we were told we were a model franchise as far as our financial performance was concerned.

Q: Who told you that?

A: Officials at Major League Baseball.

Q: Can we get a name?

A: I'd prefer not to say at this moment.

And then we had meetings the following month with financial institutions. Baseball participated in those meetings. They were very supportive of the Dodgers and the financial management, I and the senior management team's financial management. We made decisions and we went forward with the plan assuming we had the support of baseball.

The fact that we had obligations coming due in 2011 was no surprise to us and no surprise to Major League Baseball. We developed a plan which eventually became the Fox transaction. We've been working on that plan, in different versions, for the last six months. That is a transaction that is now completely negotiated, ready to be signed, and ready to be closed.

Q: You said MLB is welcome to investigate the Dodgers and, to quote you, "The more you look, the more you're going to like." You also said you want to be transparent. Are you willing to authorize MLB to publicly release the results of its investigation?

A: I don't think that would be appropriate at all.

That said, I have said to baseball that I am comfortable with them coming in, and providing them complete transparency.

Q: To the fans who buy tickets and hot dogs and cable subscriptions to support the Dodgers, how do you explain that a team that turns tens of millions of dollars in gross profits every year gets to the point where you needed a personal loan to make payroll?

A: We shouldn't have gotten to that point. This transaction should have been closed four months ago. And we told MLB that.

It's not how you run a business. On the other hand, if somebody prevents you from accessing your capital and executing your financial plans, then things like this happen. We were way out in front of all this. There is nothing abnormal that is occurring here. These are the natural obligations that a business takes care of, and they plan in advance to take care of them.

We all have obligations in our personal life and our business life. The idea is to plan in advance to take care of them. We had a plan. We executed the plan. The problem here is that baseball has been unwilling to allow us to close the transaction. Had we closed the transaction when we were planning to at the end of the year — when we were ready to — then this would all have been a nonissue.

It's the series of delays in allowing us to close this transaction that has created the problem here. Otherwise, there would be no problem here. My recent investment into the club (the personal loan) was necessitated by the delay.

Q: That may be, but MLB did not run up $500 million in debt. You did.

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