Thursday, October 6, 2011

Running out of lifelines.

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You can't turn around without finding another reason to believe the McCourt era may soon come to an end in Los Angeles. It's long been assumed that Frank McCourt's only way to emerge as Dodgers owner when the team exits bankruptcy would be to somehow win the chance to sell the club's television rights. Well, baseball doesn't want that. And Jamie McCourt doesn't want that. And perhaps most importantly, Fox doesn't want that.

One of the few arrows remaining in Frank's quiver was the threat of using the bankruptcy to expose MLB and its teams' books, potentially causing a rift between players and owners on the eve of what is expected to be a peaceful labor renegotiation. That option, too, is now off the table: Judge Kevin Gross is expected to reaffirm last week's decision not to allow Frank's lawyers to engage in discovery of other teams' financial information.

Shoot, Major League Baseball is threatening to terminate the Dodgers' franchise should Frank somehow maintain a grip on the team. Things really are that bad. Friend of the site Maury Brown argues that Frank's expose-the-books gamebit was like "running into the building strapped with dynamite, and if he’s going to go down, he’s going to inflict as much collateral damage as possible." And, yes, that does fit Frank's long history of stubborn refusal to search for a peaceful way out of contentious litigation.

In the past, I've expressed regret that it's had to come this far, and I still feel that way. There's nothing left for Frank McCourt to win. Even if he bludgeons the bankruptcy court into allowing an auction of the TV rights over the sincere objection over several relevant parties, and even if he can somehow win an injunction forcing baseball to stay out of his franchise, Frank McCourt would escape this firestorm with an openly hostile customer base wholly uneager to support his ownership.

There's nothing left to win.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the failure of Frank and Jamie McCourt to settle their differences amicably two years ago. At the heart of one of the most bitter and protracted public sagas to unfold in American sports was the simple failure of two people to realize they had more to lose by fighting than they could possibly gain.

I don't know what was happening behind closed doors two years ago today. I do know what's happened in the press and in the courtroom since, though, and I suspect that fighting over a couple hundred million dollars might end up costing Frank and Jamie some multiple of whatever amount truly separated them.

---

In about a month, barring some sort of resolution before then, the relevant parties will converge on Wilmington, Delaware for a week in court. Several times in the last few years, we've thought a finish line was, well, if not in sight, then at least just beyond the horizon. Each time we've been proven wrong.

As for this site...well, we're going to go back to our roots a little bit. Expect more frequent posts keying off news items, and a touch less (rambling) analysis and commentary until major developments emerge.
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94 comments:

  1. Great job Josh...glad to have you back! I can probably speak for a lotta folks who visit this site regularly in saying I missed your court summations.

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  2. keep at it and thank you. We need updated on this site, even if it is depressing. Mike

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  3. FINALLY, you came back....

    Josh,
    A reader on the LATimes.com website brought up a point I hadn't considered and I wondered if you had any insight on it...Profit Sharing.
    Offhand, do you know if the Dodgers, during the McCourt Era, have contributed to MLB's general funds in any way shape or form.
    I was beginning to wonder if that may not be the reason Bud Selig refuses extending his Fox contract. 3 Billion Dollars and none of it going back into Major League Baseball.

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  4. It looks like "major developments" *should* emerge the week of Oct. 31 - barring more postponements, of course. But Judge Gross seems pretty determined to get on with it this time. That would make for considerably less time since the previous bout of rambling analysis and commentary in any case, and we're all counting on you to be up for it. Given your new life and responsibilities, we'll of course understand that/if you can't actually be there in person this time. Minor news responses until then will be just fine. (Oct. 12?) Congratulations on passing the bar and your new job.

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  5. What I really want to know what is the IRS doing regarding "due from Officers & Shareholders" of over $100 million? The business and personal liability for taxes, interest & penalties are huge.

    Could there be a case for Fraudulent Conveyance if creditors are not paid in full?

    If Frank thinks he has troubles with MLB, wait until the IRS gets involved...

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  6. The Dodgers ended the season 10th in overall attendance Josh, with roughly three million fans, hardly a fan base alienated by these "distractions". I think Gross is leaning towards the auction. Just my opinion.

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  7. Attendance figures are complete charades that all MLB clubs are part of. Season ticket holders and bought tickets by ticket resellers probably contribute to the attendance number for the Dodgers and other clubs. The key figure is gate receipts. Less Gate receipts means less revenue for food and drink, besides merchandise.. Given many tickets were sold at very low prices, shows that the Dodgers weren't in high demand

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  8. Not just the gate receipts vs. attendance figures, but the fact that the Dodgers have had worse teams that have drawn over 3 million fans. The Dodgers are usually one of the top 3 teams in attendance, and there's no reason why, in a season where they featured the Cy Young and MVP contenders, they should have dropped to 10th. That's all on Frank.

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  9. Despite his protestations that he wants to retain the the team (for his sons !!!), it's been clear for months that Frank's ultimate goal is to force baseball and/or any prospective buyers to give him big bucks just to go away. When you look at his past business dealings in Boston, this makes perfect sense.

    Frank is the ultimate American businessman: invest using other people's money, produce nothing, sue everyone in sight, and force others to pay you off to go away.....

    The boys must be so proud.....

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  10. How about some legal advice!

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  11. Frank McCourt doesn't give a damn about the Los Angeles Dodgers. He only want all that Los Angeles land to develop.

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  12. Frank McCourt doesn't give a damn about the Los Angeles Dodgers. All he wants is all that land that the Stadium and parking lot are on.

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