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Dodgers' June 30 payroll looms large in McCourt case

Frank McCourt is expected to meet payroll Wednesday, but team reportedly appears to have 'no chance' of making next one that roughly triples, without cash infusion from TV deal that is under debate.

June 13, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Dodger owner Frank McCourt comments on his meetings with Major League Baseball to oversee the team's daily operations.
Dodger owner Frank McCourt comments on his meetings with Major League Baseball… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt needs about $30 million to make his team's payroll June 30, a critical indicator that a confrontation between McCourt and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig over the future of the team could loom by month's end.

McCourt is expected to meet the Dodgers' payroll Wednesday, according to three people briefed on the matter but not authorized to discuss it.

The Dodgers owe about $10 million in payroll Wednesday, according to one of the people, but that figure roughly triples for the June 30 payment as several deferred salaries come due, including more than $8 million to Manny Ramirez.

The Dodgers appear to have "no chance" to meet the June 30 payroll without a cash infusion from a new television contract, according to a person familiar with McCourt's finances but not authorized to discuss them. If McCourt misses payroll, Selig could make the payments for him, seize the team and put it up for sale.

Steve Sugerman, the spokesman for McCourt, did not respond to two messages seeking comment.

Frank McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie, held settlement talks into the evening Tuesday. It is unclear how a settlement might be structured, but a deal could be contingent on Selig's approval of a proposed television contract with Fox, one that McCourt has said could be worth $3 billion and would put the Dodgers on sound financial footing for years to come.

"You could do a deal subject to the commissioner's approval," said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law specialist who has followed the McCourt case closely. "Things like that happen all the time."

Selig has said he would not consider approving the Fox deal until he receives the results of an investigation into the Dodgers' finances, which officials hope to complete this month.

Without approval of the Fox contract, it is unclear how Frank McCourt could finance a divorce settlement without selling the Dodgers. He has assured Selig he would not use any of the $285 million Fox would immediately pay toward a divorce settlement.

Jamie McCourt asserted her claim to half-ownership of the Dodgers in reserving the right to object to the Fox contract, prompting Fox to tell Frank McCourt he has no deal unless the company can be assured she would not challenge it.

In the absence of a settlement, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon is set to hear two motions June 22. Frank McCourt has asked Gordon to rule that Jamie has no say in the television deal; Jamie McCourt has asked the judge to order the immediate sale of the Dodgers.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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