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Oakland Athletics owner calls on Frank McCourt to sell Dodgers

Lew Wolff is first MLB owner to publicly encourage McCourt to abandon fight for team. Wolff says McCourt's 'ludicrous' personal attack on Bud Selig in divorce court filing prompted him to speak out.

July 31, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. (Ray Chavez / Associated…)

Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff on Sunday called upon Frank McCourt to sell the Dodgers, becoming the first Major League Baseball owner to publicly urge McCourt to give up his fight to keep the team.

Wolff also said he believes owners are united behind Commissioner Bud Selig, whose authority McCourt has challenged in Bankruptcy Court.

Wolff, who lives in Los Angeles, said he decided to speak out after attorneys for the Dodgers' owner argued in a divorce court filing that whatever money McCourt might have taken out of the Dodgers was exceeded by the money Selig took out of MLB.

"For anyone to seek to diminish Bud's accomplishments in order to rationalize their own actions is, in my opinion, ludicrous and hugely disingenuous," Wolff said.

Steve Sugerman, the spokesman for McCourt, declined comment.

Wolff said the legal process should have played out without a personal attack on Selig.

"My hope is that the Dodgers will be sold to a party that will restart this great franchise, and that Frank and his family will benefit from a positive sale," Wolff said. "But to try and equate or compare what Bud Selig has done with the administration of the current Dodger franchise is unsupportable."

In a filing in Los Angeles Superior Court, McCourt's attorneys disputed the MLB claim that McCourt had taken more than $100 million out of the Dodgers for personal use.

"Even taking the commissioner's false claim that $100 million was taken out of the Dodgers at face value," the filing read, "it is difficult to understand how the commissioner can complain about this when he pays himself a salary of approximately $20 million a year — meaning that he has taken out between $120 million and $140 million from baseball revenues during the same period that he complains about $100 million being taken out by the owner of a team."

Selig's annual salary is $18.35 million, according to the most recent tax documents available online. That salary is set and approved by major league owners, according to MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred.

Since Selig became commissioner in 1992, annual MLB revenue has increased from $1.2 billion to $7 billion, according to the league.

Under McCourt, the Dodgers' revenue increased from $156 million in 2003, the last year of prior ownership, to $286 million in 2009, the last year available in divorce court records.

Selig, concerned in part about what McCourt has done with that revenue, rejected a proposed multibillion-dollar television contract, a decision McCourt has said forced the Dodgers into bankruptcy.

"I can't think of one owner that is not supportive of the actions taken by MLB," Wolff said.

Wolff said he did not speak out as a way to curry favor with Selig, his fraternity brother at the University of Wisconsin, who has kept the A's waiting more than two years for a decision on a proposed move to San Jose. Wolff said no one — including Selig — had asked him to speak out and said he had no interest in buying the Dodgers.

Magic Johnson, however, said he might be interested in buying the team. In a public discussion with Times columnist Bill Plaschke on Saturday at Loyola Marymount University, the Lakers legend reminded the crowd that the Dodgers are not for sale at this time.

"If the Dodgers ever came up for sale, would I take a look at it, with some other people?" Johnson said. "Of course you would look at it. The brand is so strong."

Johnson did not say who those "other people" might be. He has partnered in business ventures with billionaire Ron Burkle.

Burkle, the co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is believed to be interested in buying the Dodgers.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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