So far the only response from Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to the takeover of his team by MLB has been some strong words coming from a subordinate — but no lawsuit yet, despite some reporting to the contrary by iffy media outlets.
New Dodgers hire Steve Soboroff, a Los Angeles political insider installed as second in command, blasted the move by Commissioner Bud Selig to take control of the financially struggling franchise and install a caretaker to oversee the team’s finances. (Speculation centers on Stan Kasten or John McHale as the overseer to be named later.) McCourt recently borrowed $30 million from Fox Sports as an advance on future television revenues in order to meet payroll; that loan — done as a personal deal in order to skirt MLB’s borrowing rules — apparently was the final straw for Selig, who announced yesterday MLB was taking control.
Today, there was little more than words from Soboroff, who cast the issue more in terms of local control, telling Angelinos Selig had no business intruding in the business affairs of the Dodgers:
“There’s a predetermined campaign to blow him out of town,” Soboroff told the Los Angeles Times. “I think it’s irresponsible and it’s hurting the city.” Of course, there are some other axes being ground here: Soboroff is rumored to be thinking about running for mayor of Los Angeles, and any posturing now has to be seen in that light.
Still, the threat of litigation remains in the air. When McCourt bought the Dodgers, he pledged not to sue MLB — but he didn’t pledge to not sue the commissioner. The legal theory is that McCourt could go after Selig on the basis that his actions were arbitrary and capricious in taking control of the Dodgers.
Such a lawsuit would face extremely long odds, say experts, who say that by acting in the “best interests of baseball” Selig has wide latitude to do things like taking control of franchises. We’re not lawyers and won’t pretend so; we’ll point you to this deep analysis from a real lawyer — a lawyer specializing in sports law, to boot — for details on what could happen.
While yesterday’s action appeared sudden, they’ve actually been brewing for weeks: at the beginning of April McCourt met with Selig in an attempt to work out a financial plan. At that point Selig advised McCourt to sell, but McCourt decided to pursue the Fox loan instead after an earlier loan attempt was denied by Selig. In a press conference today, a tight-lipped Selig did admit a lot of thought went into the decision:
“I thought a lot about it,” he said. “I went back and looked at a lot of things, including some things that happened in my career. I said a couple weeks ago that people said this Texas thing [when the league facilitated the sale of the [Texas Rangers] was awful, and I said at the time that we’ll work our way through. And I believe we’ll work our way through this thing. That’s life.”
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