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Frank McCourt meets with executives in MLB commissioner's office

The Dodgers owner outlined his legal and financial plans for retaining control of the team, amid divorce proceedings that began 15 months ago, according to one official.

January 07, 2011|By Bill Shaikin

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt met for three days this week with executives from the commissioner's office as Bud Selig considers options that could complicate McCourt's ability to remain in control of the team.

McCourt met with several of Selig's lieutenants — but not with the commissioner himself — from Monday through Wednesday at Major League Baseball headquarters in New York, according to three high-ranking officials familiar with the discussions but not authorized to talk about them.

McCourt requested the meetings, the officials said.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said he could not discuss — or even confirm — the meetings. McCourt had no comment, according to his spokesman, Steve Sugerman.

McCourt outlined his legal and financial plans for retaining control of the Dodgers, amid divorce proceedings that started 15 months ago, according to one of the officials.

A court last month threw out a marital property agreement that would have granted him sole ownership of the Dodgers, meaning McCourt almost certainly would have to pay his ex-wife Jamie a significant amount of money in addition to managing a steep debt in order to keep the team.

It is uncertain exactly what McCourt proposed in his meetings, but he could get hundreds of millions of dollars by either negotiating a new television contract with Fox or selling a minority share of the Dodgers, then using the proceeds to settle his divorce. McCourt has insisted he has no plan to sell any share of ownership.

However, Selig could reject any television contract or partnership agreement. After court documents in the divorce trial revealed how the McCourts diverted millions in team revenue each year for personal use, Selig could cite grounds that such money should be used to improve the team rather than to pay off an ex-wife, one official said.

In addition, the officials said, Selig could refuse McCourt the short-term financing available to owners from MLB.

It is unclear whether such actions could pressure McCourt to the point of putting the team up for sale, whether McCourt would take legal action to stop any such moves, or how any decisions Selig might consider would be affected by Jamie McCourt's contention that she owns half the team.

However, the owner of another MLB club said he doubted Frank McCourt could rally other owners behind him — and against Selig — should the commissioner decide to act.

"I can't imagine one vote going against Bud on anything having to do with the Dodgers," said the owner, who declined to be identified because Selig has not authorized him to speak on the issue.

According to court documents, the Dodgers' parent company had $433 million in long-term debt and $619 million in total liabilities as of September 2009, and McCourt was rejected at least three times that year in trying to secure additional financing.

The Dodgers have increased in value from the $430 million McCourt paid to buy them in 2004 to an estimated $727 million last year, according to Forbes magazine.

If the court finds the Dodgers are community property, Jamie McCourt would be entitled to half their value. If the court ultimately decides the Dodgers belong to Frank McCourt, Jamie likely would be entitled to a portion of the increase in value, as the former president and chief executive officer of the team.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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