Busy day in our little world, huh? First, we hear that Bud Selig will be appointing a trustee to run Dodgers operations for the indeterminate future. Next, it comes out that the IRS is investigating the McCourts' tax strategies. Eventually, we got a statement from Jamie McCourt herself, who expressed her approval of MLB's actions. Conspicuously silent throughout this eventful afternoon was one Frank McCourt. Why? He's likely preoccupied with figuring out just what the heck comes next. Bill Shaikin offers some thoughts:
Although Commissioner Bud Selig wrested financial control of the Dodgers from Frank McCourton Wednesday, the end of the era of McCourt ownership is neither imminent nor guaranteed.
Selig ... has anticipated the possibility of a legal response by McCourt, which could delay any ownership change for some time, according to two parties briefed on Wednesday's announcement but not authorized to discuss it publicly. Neither McCourt nor any of his representatives had issued a statement within three hours of Selig's announcement.
In addition, the divorce of McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie, has yet to be settled. Jamie McCourt has asserted her claim of 50% ownership, based on California community property law. Those claims could take some time to resolve as well.
Bill's points are well-taken. Change isn't going to come immediately, and if we know anything, it's that Frank will rage at the dying of the light. But let's be realistic here: Selig would not have taken the actions he has--with the likely legal and business challenges to follow--unless he was dead set against the survival of McCourt ownership in Los Angeles. He wasn't about to take over Dodgers operations, and essentially provide Baseball's guarantee that the club will meet its payroll, if he anticipated handing the keys back to Frank McCourt.
I think it overwhelmingly likely that the team will be sold. Just not soon. And, in the immediate wake of Baseball's intervention and without much in the way of additional information, I can see a sale happening one of three ways. First, McCourt might agree to sell to a ready-to-go bidder or bidding group. We've all heard the names before. This would be, perhaps, the most painless resolution to the matter.
Next, of course, the Dodgers could be the new Montreal Expos--a ward of the state. After being forced to bring Expos ownership and operations in-house for a variety of wacky factors--Minneapolis' successful defense to contraction of the Twins included--Baseball held the club for several years. Famously, and ominously for worried Dodger fans, the Expos did not make any September call-ups despite being tied for first place in the Wild Card lead as late as August 28, 2003. The reason? MLB decided it wasn't worth the $50,000.
Total MLB takeover is a real possibility, but I want to spend a moment talking about one not quite as publicly discussed: a sale in bankruptcy. A factor leading to bankruptcy, of course, is insolvency. I have no idea if the McCourt Enterprise's debts exceed its assets. But we have strong evidence that the Dodgers were very near the point of being unable to pay bills as they came due. MLB's intervention might keep the McCourt regime from having to declare bankruptcy, but there may come a point at which availing himself of bankruptcy protections and the opportunity to reorganize his finances might be attractive to Frank from a business standpoint.
All this, of course, doesn't really contemplate Jamie. While she's outwardly positive about Baseball's actions, she might be seeing a 9-figure payday vanish into thin air. You can count on her aggressively investigating how Frank has been handling Dodgers finances over the last several years, because there just might not be very much equity in the club once all that is to happen comes to pass.
Today was one of the most meaningful, important days in the McCourt divorce saga and for the future of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, like so many other meaningful, important days in this mess, we're left with as many questions as answers. And, unfortunately, what has been practically our motto around these parts still holds: we're a long way from done.