Thursday, April 21, 2011

Major League Baseball Takes Over the Dodgers

On Wednesday it was reported that Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig would be appointing a representative to oversee the finances and all aspects of the day to day operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The current owner of the Dodgers, Frank McCourt, is currently in the middle of a very messy and highly public divorce from his wife, and part owner of the team, Jamie McCourt which has left the financial stability of the franchise in disarray.

In a public statement issued by the league office Selig had this to say about MLB taking over for the McCourts, "I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the club."

At this point Selig really had no choice.  Frank McCourt is on the verge of bankruptcy, to the point where last week he had to borrow $30 million from FOX in order to meet the team payroll, and has been attempting to borrow money to try and save the team.  It was reported that he had been trying to borrow $200 million from FOX in order to pay off his ex-wife (that's the amount she is supposedly due after the settlement) and keep majority ownership of the team which he purchased in 1998.

The troubles for McCourt began in October of 2009 when he divorced his, then wife of 30 years, Jamie after accusing her of having an affair with her bodyguard/driver.  At the same time he also fired her form her role as the team's chief executive citing poor performance at work.

What followed was a very public feud between the two that brought to light some disturbing information about the way the McCourt's operated the Dodgers.  It was discovered that Frank McCourt had been using the team as his personal piggy bank and used team revenue to finance his lavish lifestyle in Los Angeles .  The McCourt's also practiced nepotism hiring their son Drew to a front office position in which he received a salary of several-hundred-thousand dollars for services that no one can clearly define.

Other examples include the constant turn-over in the front office, most notably with public relations staff, as well as the payment of over 25 percent of a charitable organizations budget to personal friend Howard Suskin.  Frank McCourt also came under fire recently for not having a Head of Security on salary which became a real issue when on opening day a San Fransisco Giants fan was beaten to a pulp outside Dodgers stadium by fans (the fans name is Bryan Stow and he is still in critical condition with brain damage).

Thanks to the public nature of the divorce proceedings all of that information came to light and has hurt McCourt not only in his wallet but also in the eyes of the league and the fans.  Major League Baseball clearly does not want Frank McCourt to own the Dodgers and that was made quite apparent when they did not approve a the potential $200 loan from FOX that would have saved McCourt and allowed him to keep the team.

McCourt had another loan proposal drafted and sent to MLB for approval that has is still pending a decision by the league.  This proposal would have McCourt receive cash up-front from FOX for a new TV agreement that over the course of the agreement could be worth as much as $3-$4 billion.  If that deal were to be approved McCourt would be more than able to pay off his ex-wife and still be able to keep the team.

The real problem MLB has with McCourt is that all the the loans he has proposed involve him accepting money to pay off his divorce settlement and other non-baseball related debts.  The league doesn't want this to become standard practice for owners (case in the point the Wilpons and the New York Mets) and they also don't seem to want McCourt to be an owner anymore as he has tarnished what was once one of the greatest franchises in baseball.

"My office will continue its thorough investigation into the operations and finances of the Dodgers and related entities during the period of Mr. McCourt's ownership," Selig said in a public statement to the media. "The Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious franchises in all of sports, and we owe it to their legion of loyal fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future."

The crazy thing is that despite McCourt's disgraceful use of club finances the team has done quite well on the field.  Since he became the owner the Dodgers have averaged 85 wins per year, won three National League West titles and reached the postseason four times.  That is not a bad stretch especially when you consider the fact that payroll was cut in both 2010 and 2011 in an attempt to save McCourt some money.

At this point it would take a miracle for Frank McCourt to remain as the owner of the Dodgers.  The $30 million loan he received from FOX bought McCourt a little bit of time but unless he can get his hands on more money quickly his reign as owner of the Dodgers has seemingly come to an end.

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