The primary reason the Dodgers are in the boat they’re in right now is because Frank and Jamie McCourt took some $100 million out of the organization for personal use, carved up the team into individual components and leveraged it all to the hilt.
Bud Selig has just released his official statement regarding why Major League Baseball has rejected the Fox deal that Frank McCourt claims is critical for the Dodgers. He is a bit more polite about it all, but his reasons are basically the same: the Fox deal would have put money in Frank and Jamie McCourt’s pockets, and would not have benefited the team. In saying so, he cites “the best interests” power that Commissioners have always had, but which is so very rarely cited so explicitly:
Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I have informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today in a detailed letter that I cannot approve the club’s proposed transaction with FOX. This decision was reached after a full and careful consideration of the terms of the proposed transaction and the club’s current circumstances. It is my conclusion that this proposed transaction with FOX would not be in the best interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise, the game of Baseball and the millions of loyal fans of this historic club.
Mr. McCourt has been provided with an expansive analysis of my reasons for rejecting this proposed transaction. Critically, the transaction is structured to facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt. Given the magnitude of the transaction, such a diversion of assets would have the effect of mortgaging the future of the franchise to the long-term detriment of the club and its fans.
As I have said before, we owe it to the legion of loyal Dodger fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future. This transaction would not accomplish these goals.
What has gone on with the Dodgers under McCourt’s watch is an atrocity. What’s worse, it’s now being reported that even if Major League Baseball seized the Dodgers, McCourt would still own the parking lots and all manner of ancillary income. McCourt is clearly using this as a buffer against MLB action, saying in effect,”if you take my team, I’ll be your new owner’s landlord.” Which could certainly serve to depress buyer interest in the club.
Of course, the fact that that business arrangement is even allowed (i.e. an owner parsing out what should be team assets away from potential MLB control) is Major League Baseball’s fault. As was letting McCourt into the club in the first place, so let us not weep too much for Major League Baseball here. Letting in clearly unqualified owners with questionable motives is something that never should have occurred, but which in any event needs to end now. You can’t claim the best interests of baseball now when, a few years before, you weren’t all that damn diligent about it.
So where does it go from here? It would almost have to be litigation, one would assume, with Frank McCourt suing baseball for not approving the Fox deal or demanding that it be ratified immediately via some sort of injunction. Baseball’s best bet is probably to simply take over when McCourt fails to make payroll at the end of the month and hope that they can swing it to a posture where the team and the ancillary assets could both be wrenched from McCourt’s control so as to make the Dodgers a more attractive asset for some billionaire.
But it’s going to get darker, it seems, before it gets light again.