Los Angeles The Dodgers are closer than ever to a change in ownership after Major League Baseball rejected a proposed broadcast deal between the team and Fox Sports, denying the financially troubled ballclub a much needed infusion of cash.
The decision handed down by Commissioner Bud Selig on Monday also invalidated last week’s divorce settlement between owner Frank McCourt and his ex-wife Jamie, which had been predicated on both parties — and their lawyers — receiving an immediate piece of the television deal.
This “further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt” concerned Selig, according to a statement released by his office.
The commissioner said it “would have the effect of mortgaging the future of the franchise to the long-term detriment of the club and its fans.”
It now remains to be seen if McCourt can meet the team’s next payroll on June 30. The embattled owner has said that he can, but others familiar with the team’s finances say he cannot.
Selig does not plan to seize the team unless McCourt misses payroll, according to two people familiar with the matter. At that point, he could suspend McCourt and put the team up for sale.
The commissioner believes McCourt would respond by filing a lawsuit, according to three people familiar with his thinking. The Dodgers reinforced that expectation with a response from McCourt’s attorney, Steve Susman.
“Commissioner Selig’s letter of rejection is not only a disappointment, but worse, is potentially destructive to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball,” Susman said. “Accordingly, we plan to explore vigorously our options and remedies.”
The attorney noted that McCourt had furnished the league with all the data it had requested after taking control of the team’s day-to-day operations and launching an investigation in April. He said that more than $200 million of upfront money for the television deal would be devoted to the team.
“All the requirements for the commissioner to approve the Fox transaction were put in place,” he said.
Neither Fox nor representatives for Jamie McCourt had any comment.
The Fox deal could have paid the Dodgers “in excess of” $3 billion over 17 years — at or above market rate — according to Frank McCourt. MLB executives valued the deal at closer to $1.7 billion.
McCourt had spent months campaigning for approval, saying the money was critical to his club’s financial health.