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Fox Sports expands reach of lawsuit to Frank McCourt

Amended legal action includes the owner and umbrella company for his other business ventures as well as the Dodgers.

November 18, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Frank McCourt leaves the hotel after the baseball owners' meetings on Thursday in Milwaukee.
Frank McCourt leaves the hotel after the baseball owners' meetings… (Morry Gash / Associated…)

Fox Sports expanded its legal combatants beyond the Dodgers late Thursday, adding team owner Frank McCourt and the umbrella company for most of his business ventures as defendants in a lawsuit alleging breach of contract.

Fox also asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for a restraining order to prevent the Dodgers from marketing their television rights and said the team had no need to remain under bankruptcy protection now that McCourt has agreed to sell.

The Dodgers, the defendant when Fox originally filed suit in September, are one of five McCourt entities under bankruptcy protection. The Dodgers asked last month that the suit be dismissed, citing in part a failure to identify allegations against specific "unidentified defendants."

The amended Fox lawsuit names McCourt personally and the McCourt-Broderick Limited Partnership as defendants.

The McCourt-Broderick Limited Partnership, wholly owned by McCourt, is the parent company for at least 23 entities, including the Dodgers, according to an organizational chart filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The Dodgers' effort to sell their television rights has given rise to two lawsuits, with Fox suing the team and vice versa.

The Dodgers sued Fox on Wednesday, claiming the television company has interfered with the sale of the team. The current Fox contract forbids the team from negotiating with other media outlets until Nov. 30, 2012, a provision the Dodgers have asked the court to declare unenforceable.

The Fox suit demands that the contract be affirmed in its entirety and that the Dodgers be stopped from marketing their television rights.

The complaint also claims Fox has obtained documents that show McCourt and the investment bank selling the Dodgers on his behalf have advised prospective buyers of a pending "briefing book that will include a fully negotiated media rights deal approved by MLB that the buyer can either accept or reject."

In the absence of authorization from either Fox or the court, Fox claims the pursuit of any such deal would violate its current contract. In filing suit against Fox on Wednesday, the Dodgers said such a deal could boost the sale price of the team and would thus be "designed to realize maximum value for the Dodgers and its stakeholders, including the team's owner, Frank McCourt."

McCourt and MLB agreed on Nov. 1 that the Dodgers would be sold, an event that Fox argued should end the bankruptcy cases now.

"LAD had never contended that all of its assets would not be paid in full when the Dodgers are sold," the Fox filing read, using "LAD" to refer to the team.

"Thus, there is no good-faith reason that LAD should still be under the Bankruptcy Court's protection."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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