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Frank McCourt tells MLB he expects to meet Dodgers' payroll next week

If so, Dodgers owner could stave off prospect of Major League Baseball's seizing the team.

May 25, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Dodgers owner Frank McCourt could buy more time to secure a potential broadcast deal with Fox if he makes the team's payroll on Tuesday.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt could buy more time to secure a potential broadcast… (Ramin Talaie / Bloomberg )

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has told Major League Baseball officials that he expects to meet the team's payroll next week, three people briefed on the matter said Wednesday.

If he can meet the Dodgers' May 31 payroll, McCourt would at least temporarily avoid the prospect of baseball paying the salaries for him and seizing the team from him.

That prospect arose when McCourt needed a $30-million personal loan to meet the first three payrolls of the season, two in April and the most recent on May 15.

McCourt needs about $9.8 million to meet the May 31 payroll, said a person familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the potential for litigation. McCourt could obtain at least some of that money by accelerating payments the Dodgers were due later this season, one of the people briefed on the matter said.

The amount of money needed to meet payroll will increase in June, when the Dodgers must pay Manny Ramirez more than $6 million in deferred compensation, according to two people familiar with the Ramirez contract. The payroll comes due on June 15 and 30, with the Ramirez payment slated for June 30, one of the people said.

Steve Sugerman, the spokesman for McCourt, had no comment on whether the Dodgers owner would meet the May 31 payroll.

If McCourt can do so, he could hold MLB at bay for at least two weeks while accelerating efforts to settle his divorce and secure approval of a broadcast contract with Fox that would serve as his financial lifeline.

McCourt and three of his lawyers met with MLB officials on Tuesday in New York, asking again for approval of the Fox contract — baseball is waiting to complete an investigation of Dodgers finances before it makes a decision on the matter — and expressing the belief that his ex-wife Jamie McCourt has no say in the deal.

The McCourts are scheduled to resume settlement talks on Thursday. In the absence of a settlement, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon has set a June 22 hearing on Jamie McCourt's request that he order the Dodgers to be sold and on Frank McCourt's request that Gordon either approve the Fox contract or rule that Jamie McCourt cannot contest it.

Mike Kump, an attorney for Jamie McCourt, asked in a May 3 letter to MLB that the league "publicly recognize Jamie as a 50% co-owner of the Dodgers."

The league has declined to do so. Jamie McCourt argues the Dodgers are community property, Frank McCourt argues the Dodgers are solely his property, and the court has yet to make a final ruling.

Commissioner Bud Selig is "not anxious to get embroiled in a marital dispute," according to a person familiar with his thinking. The person also said that Fox's plan not to move forward with the contract unless Jamie McCourt agrees not to challenge it has left Selig with the belief he has no deal to consider.

"As of right now, there's nothing for him to do," the person said.

Frank McCourt has said the contract is "completely negotiated" and "ready to be signed" and could be worth at least $3 billion. Jamie McCourt has alleged in court papers that the deal "may be below market" and could thus affect the value of the Dodgers, the couple's principal asset.

Frank McCourt has replied in court papers that the deal "maximizes the value" of the Dodgers by providing the team with "market-rate" annual rights fees and an ownership stake in Prime Ticket. Frank McCourt has further argued that his ex-wife has no grounds to contest media rights deals that are within the "ordinary course of business" for team management.

Times staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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