Frank McCourt came out swinging today in the ongoing Los Angeles Dodgers ownership drama, saying at a New York City press conference that MLB had no business rejecting a lucrative naming-rights deal with Fox and appointing Tom Schieffer to monitor the team’s operations.
McCourt met today with Major League Baseball officials and presented them with a broadcast-rights deal from Fox that would front the team some $300 million and could eventually be worth $3 billion over the next 17 years, a deal that would basically ensure the future financial stability of the team. According to McCourt, the proposed deal met MLB’s contract guidelines and was similar to other broadcast deals approved by MLB. (Selig was not part of the meeting in fear that anything said there could end up as part of a potential lawsuit. More on that later.) Instead, McCourt says the deal was rejected.
In a press conference after the meeting, McCourt said it was “un-American” for MLB to have taken control of the team and threw out a few hints at a lawsuit, saying he would “protect my rights, obviously” and was “committed to my position. … I’m not going anywhere.
“We don’t believe Commissioner Selig has the right to jump the gun and take over the business of the Los Angeles Dodgers.”
MLB’s response from Rob Manfred was quick:
“It is unfortunate that Mr. McCourt felt it necessary to publicize the content of a private meeting. It is even more unfortunate that Mr. McCourt’s public recitation was not accurate. Most fundamental, Commissioner Selig did not ‘veto’ a proposed transaction. Rather, Mr. McCourt was clearly told that the Commissioner would make no decision on any transaction until after his investigation into the Club and its finances is complete so that he can properly evaluate all of the facts and circumstances.
“Equally important, there has been no seizure of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mr. Scheiffer has been appointed as a monitor, and a multi-page written directive from the Commissioner describing his role has been provided to Mr. McCourt. In our meeting, no one from the Dodgers asked a single, specific question about the terms of the document setting forth the monitor’s role.
“Finally, Mr. McCourt is well aware of the basis of Baseball’s investigation and has been provided an eight-page document describing the issues of concern to Major League Baseball.”
A lawsuit does appear to be inevitable; McCourt can’t sue MLB, but he can sue Selig on the grounds that the seizure of the Dodgers was arbitrary and capricious. Given the team’s financial problems — McCourt needed an advance on broadcast rights from Fox in order to meet payroll — that argument may be tough to make.
To what extent MLB has taken over control of the Dodgers is debatable: the hiring of Schieffer, a former ambassador and president of the Texas Rangers, was done to protect the finances of the Dodgers, as Schieffer was empowered specifically to monitor all financial transactions, to the point of signing off on any expenditure over $5,000. T
“The commissioner has the right, under the agreements that we have and in the best interests of baseball, to take control of a franchise when there is difficulty,” Schieffer told the Los Angeles Times. “And I think that’s what the commissioner has done and I am his representative.”
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