Frank McCourt Death Watch: One Legal Ball-Kick Down, Several More To Go

24 10 2011

It’s been a busy week here at the Dubsism offices. without going into great detail, the bottom line is we are a couple days behind a story we’ve been following all summer.  In other words, America’s long national nightmare is over: The McCourt’s have finally reached a settlement in their divorce which kept the Los Angeles Dodgers in ownership limbo.

You read that correctly. The divorce which was baseball’s equivalent of Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren now seems to have finally ended in a settlement last week. So, now we can get back the regular-scheduled business of heaping scorn and derision on the Dodgers…just as soon as we figure out who is going end up owning this team. Initial reports state Jamie McCourt as part of the deal relinquished any claim to the team.

Frank and Jamie McCourt have reached a divorce settlement under which she would get about $130 million and relinquish any claim to a share of the Dodgers, multiple people familiar with the agreement told The Times.

The settlement would remove Jamie McCourt as an obstacle to Frank McCourt’s plan to retain ownership of the team by selling the Dodgers’ television rights in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The agreement also would appear to set up a winner-take-all court showdown for the Dodgers between Frank McCourt and Commissioner Bud Selig.

The key phrase in all of that is “winner-take-all court showdown.” While McCourt succeeds in wrestling claim to the Dodgers out of his ex-wife’s rat-like claws, he really is just setting himself up for more legal testicle-kicks.

Here’s the beauty of this…McCourt, having run the Dodgers into the financial crapper, manages to escape from what may very well be the costliest divorce in the history of the state of  California history only to run right back into Osama Bud Selig’s buzz-saw.

Look at Frank McCourt’s situation now. Being rid of the ex-wife and any of her claims to the team is rumored to cost him about $130 milllion.  The divorce itself racked up an additional $20.6 million in legal bills, and the pissing contest over whether the Dodgers were community property chalked up at least another $14 million.

By my finger-and-toe math, that is at a minimum additional $164.6 million down the drain. Why is that important? Because it adds to the total tab it is going to take to excise the butt-nugget known as Frank McCourt from baseball.

Here’s how this works…McCourt’s entire purpose for entering bankruptcy with the Dodgers into bankruptcy was to keep the team…he stated and acted like from Day One that he will give up the Dodgers when his cold, dead fingers are pried from the team. Part of that bankruptcy deal was the court ordered major league baseball to provide a $150 million loans for operating capital.

Now, two things have happened that will kill the viability of that arrangement. First, there is the aformentioned divorce settlement. Not only does it bring up the additional liabilities, it adds the complication that nobody seems to know if the Bankruptcy Court would allow McCourt to use money from any television deal to satisfy a divorce settlement.  Bud Selig wouldn’t allow that, which is one of the main reasons he killed McCourt’s multi-billion deal television with Fox.

The McCourts had reached a tentative divorce settlement in  June 17, but that agreement was contingent upon the approval of the proposed television contract between the Dodgers and Fox.  Selig would not allow the use of funds from a Dodger telelvision to fund McCourt’s divorce; almost half of an immediate $385-million payment from Fox would have been diverted from the Dodgers to satisfying the divorce settlement.

That’s nut-kick number one.

If only McCourt knew how to shut up.

Then there is the issue of the Dodgers’ debt load and tax liability having increased to the point where repaying the $150 million loan assumed as part of the bankruptcy funding and meeting those liabilities could wipe out much — if not all — of whatever profit he would make if he is ordered to sell the team.

That’s nut-kick number two.

While it has been McCourts intention to keep the Dodgers, Bud Selig has asked the Bankruptcy Court to order the Dodgers sold.  Now with his ex-wife out of the picture, there is really only one way McCourt can avoid being forced into a sale. First, he needs the Bankruptcy Court to deny Selig’s request. Then, he needs the same court to grant an auction of the Dodgers’ television rights, a move that would be legally opposed by both  Selig and Fox Sports. After all that, he still needs to come up with $130 million free and clear of any Dodger money to keep the ex-wife from returning to the picture.

That’s nut-kick number three.

Even you have to know the rules, Frank…three nut-kicks and you’re out.








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