Tuesday, April 5, 2011

From one court to another?

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As settlement talks between Frank and Jamie McCourt progress, attention has shifted to the commissioner's office. In a potential settlement, Frank would keep the Dodgers and Jamie would get a truckload of money, presumably from the extension of the club's television rights deal with Fox. To flesh things out, here's our friend Bill:
The protracted divorce proceedings could be over soon, with an asterisk. As lawyers for Frank and Jamie McCourt work to craft a settlement, the Dodgers have revived negotiations with Fox on a television rights deal that could get each of the McCourts to shake hands and move on with their lives.

The asterisk is this: The television deal would be subject to Selig's approval.

[...]

McCourt would ask Selig for his blessing, arguing that the deal would provide plenty of money to settle the divorce, manage the Dodgers' debt and improve the team and the stadium.

And then we would find out just how badly Selig wants McCourt out.
Now, there's a lot going on here. Shaikin suggests in his article that Selig might refuse to allow Frank to extend the TV deal. In the past weeks and months, the commissioner's office has rejected at least two funding proposals from the Dodgers; it's been speculated here and elsewhere that Selig is ready to let McCourt ownership die on the vine.

Craig Calcaterra offers another possible motivation behind Selig's actions here:
It seems to me that it could be more than wanting to squeeze McCourt out that would animate Selig to reject the deal. Rather, it could be that baseball would really, really like a marquee team in a major market to do what the Yankees, Sox and Mets have done and form its own cable network someday.
It's already quite obvious that the Dodgers--despite their significant built-in advantages like market size and a paid-for stadium--do not operate as a mega-market team can. Arguably, the Dodgers do not operate like a mega-market team should. Craig sees the McCourts' strife as an opportunity for Baseball to interpose its wishes on the future of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Of course, if Selig does block a TV deal vital to helping the McCourts settle their divorce and keep the team in the family, you can expect Frank to sue. It is, after all, what he does. And he's been quite successful at it; he withstood a decade of legal challenges related to the Boston property he ended up flipping for the Dodgers. As we've seen in this divorce, he's not one to back down.

Which brings us back to the most interesting angle of Shaikin's artice (to me, at least):
When Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers, he signed an agreement not to sue the commissioner, an agreement required of every incoming owner.

Michael McCann, a professor of sports law at the University of Vermont Law School, said the danger for baseball might be less that McCourt would succeed in a lawsuit than that confidential financial data from all clubs might be revealed along the way.
This is well-trod ground, I know, but: Baseball never seems to benefit from its teams' information going public. It's always more complex than people want to think, there's always money going places people don't want it to go, and it's all much more a business than people want to believe. Even where accounting practices and the like are on the up-and-up, folks still have negative reactions to seeing how the sausage is made.

So maybe Selig does fight Frank's plans. Maybe he does squeeze the McCourts out of baseball. Maybe he is willing to deal with the consequences. Or maybe he's under pressure from the 29 other members of the fraternity to keep the books closed at all costs. Maybe, like others before him, Selig decides that fighting Frank just isn't worth it.
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16 comments:

  1. Frank will certainly ignore the no lawsuit agreement, citing bad faith because Selig keeps shutting him down. He might actually have a point (and a case), if Selig is indeed trying to push him out.

    From a baseball point of view, I don't see how the McCourt ownership is that bad. The Dodgers are more competitive that they were under Fox, and have modernized the stadium and are expanding revenue sources.

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  2. lifetime dodgers fanApril 5, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    Tom J...."I don't see how the McCourt ownership is that bad". Are you serious!!!! It is apparrent that you are not well inform with all the facts. I can try to point out a few facts but I would be wasting my time with you. SELL THE TEAM MCCOURT!!! THIS IS MY TOWN!!

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  3. Bud Selig seems to have such a penchant for doing the wrong thing. I can't imagine he'll do any better this time.

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  4. SELL THE TEAM IS WHAT SHOULD BE DONE. BUD DON'T LET THE MC COURTS CONTINUE OWINING THE DODGERS

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  5. I see no prospect whatsoever that Frank McCourt would sue MLB no matter what happens with the decision by Selig. He can't. He signed a form stating so, a standard form. I cannot see MLB for a moment actually allowing this little man to possibly dictate terms to them by the threat of his circumventing this edict in order to frighten Selig by possibly exposing the other owner's books. What absolute nonsense. It is simple, either Selig will approve the long term deal and Frank stays, or Selig does not and Frank goes. Period. The endgame is near.

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  6. Additionally, I cannot see the Wilpon or Hicks situations being necessarily relevant either to this Dodger situation. Granted, he bailed out Wilpon by approving minority ownership, allowed FOX to extend rights to the Rangers, but the Dodgers situation is definitely unique in that they violated whether directly or indirectly the best interests of baseball clause, which Selig has been recalcitrant to utilize in order to separate himself from HIS OWN particular involvement in the formation of the problem. This is why his silence speaks volumes, and why he desperately needs it "cleaned up".

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  7. Pardon me, I used "they" due to the nullification of the MPA, assuming that "they" are the current owner of the team, although "she" does not currently dispute "his" ownership claim. Oy.

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  8. Gosh, its late, "reluctant" to use, not "recalcitrant". I'm tired.

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  9. Selig has never rejected a Fox Contract. He rejected a Fox loan. Apples and Oranges.

    the reported multi billion $ deal is good for all of baseball, and other owners want it as well.

    who is spending $ 95 million on players. who just turned around the marathon to effect contributions of over $ 4 million to charity? tell us about the personal lives of all of the other major sport owners (marriages, dating habits, their philanthropy, their business litigation history). You may find that all have made mistakes along the way.

    Let the guy get out from underneath the burdens of the divorce and the mistakes he made there, and give him a chance. Turnarounds happen !

    He will soon own the team, will have the money to focus on future improvements to the team and fan experience , and wants to win as much as anyone.

    Once he is not vulnerable, the media will move on to skewering the next Angeleno in line who is.

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  10. See Forbes report:http://blogs.forbes.com/monteburke/2011/03/23/special-report-inside-baseballs-debt-disaster/

    McCourt will be out due to the debt scandal potentially affecting MLB's collective bargaining agreement which could ultimately affect baseball's anti-trust exemption, which is always tenuous. FOX's traditional leverage over baseball is strong, but always secondary to issues such as those above. Selig will be forced to correct the debt issues and the threat of litigation exposing baseball's sacred Torah (the Books) will not move Selig. In addition, the diminution of two major market teams such as the Mets and Dodgers into such enormous violations of Ebitda will have massive ramifications on revenue sharing of small market teams beyond the ramifications of overall reduction of large market value. The health of the sport is clear. However, Selig realizes that he has been remiss in monitoring two signature franchises in major markets and it has had a significant residual effect on the game itself and its potential future. This is why Selig will not approve any additional loans to the Dodgers.
    Not to mention, this model cannot sustain.

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  11. Selig should never had apporved the McCourts' purchase in the first place. The rules require that the buyer have so much money of his own as down payment. Selig caved into pressure from FOX to allow the McCourts to buy the Dodgers with 100% financing! Frank could not repay the downpayment loan so he lost the parking lot. They can't afford to own the Dodgers and they've shown they're more interested in taking money FROM the operation instead of INTO the baseball operation. The Dodgers need a new owner, PERIOD! I hope Selig finally "grows a pair" and does what's best for baseball & the Dogers and lets the McCourts slither off into a hole somewhere. I only hope I live long enough to see MY L.A. Dodgers with a GOOD owner (with money)who's committed to winning!!!(Jeff Pick - Lifetime Dodger fan since 1958)

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  12. STICK A FORK IN FRANK. HE'S DONE!

    Frank will be gone as owner of the Dodgers by the end of the year. The Giant's
    parking lot incident is the final straw. Attendance is dwindling -- the freeway
    series drew one of the smallest crowds in decades. The sports writers and sports
    talk shows are on his case. Selig and the other owners will not allow the
    Dodgers to go Rams/Raiders. They will not allow one of the marquis franchises in
    the largest tv market to fail and become a black hole for their product.

    The typical fan has had it with Frank and won't go to Dodger stadium. The middle
    class guy for whom the high point of the year was taking in a few ball games
    won't go. Why? Tickets that used to be affordable (I have in front of me a field
    box ticket from 1997. The admission price $17. Today that ticket is $75.) Fans
    don't feel safe since gang-bangers and Raider-fan types have taken over the
    stadium. McCourt has ruined the atmosphere with every sqaure inch of the stadium
    covered with advertisement and noise. Most of all, fans can't avoid seeing and
    can't stand looking at Frank sitting next to the dugout with that fat, sycophant
    Lasorda sitting next to him. I've stopped going and there are thousands (tens of
    thousands) who share that feeling.

    I'm not going to postulate the scenario, but Frank is gone. Let's hope somebody
    with a little (not a lot, but at least a little) integrity gets the franchise.

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  13. Umm, hes done alot? The stadium is nearly 50 years old, of course he had to pay for improvements. Yes the team has had more success since Fox and O'malleys final decade, but he hasn't helped build on that success. As costs of parking, tickets and concessions have increased; payroll has very slightly increased during this "success". It is true, huge payrolls do not guarantee championships; but when was the last time the Minnesota Twins, Tampa Ray's and The A's when they were on a lil' run? Yes, there are exceptions like Florida winning twice; but they did benefit as much from free agency as good chemistry, managing and desire. They also were forced to break up the team after each title. Were not S. Florida though, where no offense to them and their fans; they're not a Major League sports town with 2 very popular and successful professional sports teams. The McCourts have been and always been opportunists, they will do "just enough". There is nothing wrong with trying to make money and alot of it; but as fans of the Dodgers "just enough" is not good enough.

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  14. Gotta give credit whet credit is due. The unified response of the Mayor, the Chief, the Councilman and the Owner seems sincere and serious

    Definitely worth giving it another chance. Get me out of the man cave and to the ballpark with my family!

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  15. Very good article,maybe it should help me.

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  16. Thank you for writing such a wonderful article!

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