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Judge vows that Fox Sports will get a fair say in Dodgers sale

Network, whose television contract prevents the team from negotiating with any other party besides Fox through Nov. 30, 2012, is opposed to the Dodgers' intention of selling their television rights separately from the club.

November 08, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Dodgers owner Frank McCourt spoke to his employees Tuesday about his decision to sell the team.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt spoke to his employees Tuesday about his decision… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Fox Sports will get a "full and fair" say as the U.S. Bankruptcy Court decides whether to approve an agreement under which Dodgers owner Frank McCourt would sell the team, Judge Kevin Gross said Tuesday.

McCourt and Major League Baseball reached a settlement agreement last week. The Dodgers intend to sell the team's television rights separately from the team, a proposal to which Fox strenuously objects.

McCourt has not spoken publicly since the settlement was announced, but he met with team employees at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

Speaking in front of hundreds of staff members, McCourt said he never thought his personal life would affect the club as much as it did, according to people at the meeting. McCourt was described as remorseful, reportedly telling employees that he wished he had taken better care of what he had.

"He really felt bad about what has happened," said former manager Tom Lasorda, who was at the meeting.

Former commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who previously led groups that bid on the Dodgers and Angels, said Tuesday he would not pursue the Dodgers during the current sale process. Ueberroth is perhaps best known as chief of the highly successful 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I have no interest in bidding on the Dodgers at this time, but I'll be watching closely," he said. "I'm just wishing all the bidders well. I hope they consider the community. The enterprise is really partially owned by the fans and the community."

In a court hearing Tuesday, Fox attorney Paul Laurin expressed concern over reports that he said characterized the settlement between McCourt and MLB as "a foregone conclusion."

Although the judge has reviewed the deal points with attorneys representing McCourt and MLB, he said a final settlement has yet to be submitted or approved.

"I am awaiting the papers myself," Gross said. "Fox will have every opportunity for a full and fair hearing."

The Dodgers' current television contract prevents the team from negotiating with any party besides Fox through Nov. 30, 2012. The settlement agreement targets April 1 as a date for completion of a Dodgers sale.

The Dodgers said in a statement Monday that they soon would submit "an amended media rights procurement motion" to the court.

However, the settlement agreement between McCourt and MLB calls for one auction, not two, with a decision on the television rights left to the new owner, according to a person involved in drafting the settlement.

"The agreement is explicit," the person said.

In court papers, McCourt and his attorneys have argued that a television rights auction would benefit the Dodgers in the event of a sale, for they could fetch a higher price given the certainty of long-term media revenue. The league's media consultant, former NBA TV president Ed Desser, said the Dodgers might command 10% to 20% more in a television rights sale "if they wait a year or two."

Fox has sued to enforce the current contract. Laurin suggested Tuesday that the money Fox could win in a lawsuit might be so large as to make it difficult for McCourt and MLB to fulfill promises to repay all creditors in full.

McCourt's attorneys have said the Dodgers could simply honor the two years remaining under the current contract and called it "unlikely that Fox Sports can assert any meaningful damages."

Times staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.

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