McCourt, Selig lock horns

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig hasn’t acted in good faith by rejecting a proposed television deal involving the Los Angeles Dodgers and appeared determined to run Frank McCourt out of the sport, a lawyer representing the embattled owner said Tuesday.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig hasn’t acted in good faith by rejecting a proposed television deal involving the Los Angeles Dodgers and appeared determined to run Frank McCourt out of the sport, a lawyer representing the embattled owner said Tuesday.

A day after Selig announced he wouldn’t approve a Dodgers TV deal with Fox Sports — reportedly worth up to US$3 billion — lawyer Robert Sacks questioned the commissioner’s intentions and warned that any potential takeover of the team by Major League Baseball would be met with resistance.

“There seems to be a predetermined result to drive Frank out of baseball without a good faith basis,” Sacks said. “This isn’t going to go away quietly.”

McCourt hoped Selig would sign off on the transaction that would have provided him with $385 million up front and was vital to a binding settlement reached between him and his ex-wife and former Dodger CEO Jamie McCourt last week. McCourt now faces the potential of missing a June 30 team payroll without the TV funds and that could lead to a MLB takeover.

Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice-president of labour relations, wouldn’t say what Selig’s next move would be, but noted the league has treated McCourt fairly and wasn’t interested in seeing him take on further debt or pull future revenues.

The McCourts have been embroiled in a contentious divorce where their lavish spending habits were detailed in court documents. The former couple took out more than $100 million in loans from Dodger-related businesses, records show.

“Mr. McCourt was told early on he needed an equity solution,” Manfred said. “The entire history with Mr. McCourt and baseball shows he’s been given numerous exceptions that were club-specific to assist him. If anything he’s been treated more favourably than other clubs.”

In April, MLB took the extraordinary step of assuming control of the troubled franchise. Former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer was appointed to monitor the team on behalf of Selig, who said he took the action because he was concerned about the team’s finances and how the Dodgers are being run.

McCourt has maintained he met the criteria set forth by baseball officials in order for the TV contract to be approved and would amend the conditions if need be. The Dodgers’ current TV deal with Fox expires in 2013.

Sacks claims Selig has been ducking his client and should have given McCourt fair warning about not approving the deal.

“If the commissioner wasn’t prepared to approve the transaction, he should have told Frank so he could pursue other avenues,” Sacks said. “I think I would say the commissioner has put the team in a cash-flow bind and Frank is reviewing his options to address that situation as best he can given MLB’s unwarranted action.”

Sacks also characterized the reasons set forth in the 11-page letter from Selig to McCourt for rejecting the TV deal as “ill-founded” and based on misinformation about the team, the divorce and the structure of McCourt’s businesses and prior transactions.

“Baseball has had visibility into everything,” Sacks said.

The settlement, now voided because of Selig’s decision, called for a one-day “characterization” trial Aug. 4 to determine if title to the Dodgers is in Frank McCourt’s name or if the team should be considered community property and sold. Sacks said the trial may be shelved and Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon could decide how to handle the former couple’s assets at a later date.

Gordon ruled in December that a postnuptial marital agreement that gave Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers was invalid. That cleared the way for Jamie McCourt, who served as the team’s CEO and was fired by her ex-husband two years ago, to seek half the team under California’s community property law.

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