Dodgers’ McCourt Says ’Not Going Anywhere’ as MLB Delays TV Deal With Fox

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said he’s “not going anywhere” after Major League Baseball took over operations of the team and held up a long- term TV deal with News Corp.’s Fox Sports.

McCourt is weighing whether to sue over the takeover ordered last week by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, the Dodgers owner said yesterday at a news conference in New York after meeting there with baseball officials.

“Nobody handed the Dodgers to me and nobody’s going to take them away,” McCourt said. “I’m not going anywhere. This is a team that I love, a community that I love. These are my hard-earned dollars that I put into this franchise.”

Selig hasn’t vetoed the proposed deal with Fox and baseball officials told McCourt yesterday that the commissioner won’t make a decision until a probe into the team’s finances is complete, MLB said in a statement.

“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,” according to the statement.

McCourt held his news conference as J. Thomas Schieffer, the former Texas Rangers president appointed by MLB this week to monitor the team’s operations, met with reporters in Los Angeles. Schieffer was joined by former Dodgers and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who will assist in running the team.

Torre left the Dodgers at the end of last season after a three-year stint as manager. He now is the MLB official in charge of baseball operations.

Fox TV Deal

A new 17-year TV deal with Fox Sports offered the Dodgers an immediate $300 million boost to its finances through an equity stake in the News Corp. (NWSA) cable network that carries the Dodgers, according to McCourt. In an interview today with Pimm Fox and Michele Steele on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness with Margaret Brennan,” McCourt said none of the proceeds would go to cover personal expenses.

“The only thing standing between that deal closing, which ensures the financial stability of the franchise, is Bud Selig,” McCourt said.

Frank and Jamie McCourt were granted a divorce in October after almost 31 years of marriage. A Los Angeles judge last year invalidated a postnuptial agreement that Frank McCourt claimed made him the sole owner of the Dodgers, leaving the team’s ownership in limbo.

Personal Use

Court documents filed in the divorce case said the McCourts took $108 million in personal distributions from the team between 2004 and 2009, almost half for mortgages and real estate.

Frank McCourt criticized MLB for not approving the agreement with Fox.

“I’ve decided to take the equity from this transaction and plow it into the Dodgers,” McCourt said in the news conference. “The lack of a decision to allow us to do our media transaction is creating all this noise about the financial duress of the Dodgers.”

McCourt said today on Bloomberg Television that Selig hadn’t returned “half a dozen” phone calls over the past few weeks.

“I don’t know why he’s ducking me,” McCourt said. “In my experience, when there’s a problem or an issue you sit down and talk about it. Without communication you’re not going to solve anything.”

Force Out

McCourt said that the lack of communication and the fact that his team has not violated any league rules have created the feeling that Selig and the MLB want to force him out.

“It sure seems that way to me,” McCourt said. “This is a franchise that is in complete compliance with all of baseball’s rules, including the financial rules; we’re current on all of our payments; I haven’t asked for, nor have I received, a penny of emergency funding from baseball or from the other owners.”

Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations and human resources, said the MLB is in no way trying to take the team from McCourt.

“I have never heard anybody suggest anything to Mr. McCourt to indicate that we are trying to force him out,” Manfred said today in a telephone interview.

McCourt characterized Schieffer as a “receiver” instead of a monitor, and criticized MLB’s investigation into the team’s finances.

“The appointment of Mr. Schieffer in the fashion he was appointed is a fundamental problem for the Dodgers,” McCourt said yesterday in his news conference. “There is chaos that has been created by this appointment. There has been no due process at all.”

Baseball announced last week that it was going to appoint someone to run the franchise, days after the Los Angeles Times reported that McCourt took a $30 million loan from Fox to meet payroll.

“I don’t want to get into an argument with Mr. McCourt,” Schieffer said at yesterday’s news conference in Los Angeles, adding he is eager to meet with McCourt. “I’m just here to help.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net; Beth Jinks in New York at bjinks1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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