Dodgers Judge Appoints Mediator to Help Resolve Dispute Over Fox TV Rights

The judge overseeing the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bankruptcy appointed a mediator to try to resolve a dispute between the ball club and News Corp.’s Fox Sports Net West 2 LLC unit over the team’s proposed sale of its future television rights.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross assigned retired U.S. District Judge Joseph Farnan the task of trying to arrange a settlement between the two sides, according to court documents filed today in Wilmington, Delaware.

Gross canceled a hearing set for tomorrow in which Fox wanted to delay the team’s Nov. 30 hearing seeking approval to entertain bids for the right to televise its future games. The Nov. 30 hearing will proceed unless the court decides otherwise.

The mediation proceedings are set to begin Nov. 28 in Los Angeles and will be confidential. They will conclude with “a report advising the court only that the matter has or has not been settled, without any further detail,” according to Gross’s ruling.

Fox Sports has fought the team’s plan to exit bankruptcy by marketing and selling the rights to air Dodgers’ games, arguing that its existing contract gives it the exclusive right to negotiate for the TV rights through November 2012.

TV Rights

The News Corp. (NWSA) unit asked Gross to dismiss the Dodgers bankruptcy case last week, saying team owner Frank McCourt is using the Dodgers bankruptcy to fund a divorce settlement with his former wife, Jaime McCourt.

McCourt tried selling the television rights to future Dodgers’ games to Fox Sports before he put the team into bankruptcy. The team filed for court protection from its creditors in June, after Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig rejected a proposed extension of Fox’s TV contract.

The Dodgers sued Fox Sports Nov. 16 as part of the bankruptcy case, claiming the network is interfering with its plans to sell the team and solicit offers for the TV rights.

Farnan also mediated the Dodgers’ dispute with Major League Baseball, achieving a settlement that will result in a sale of the team.

Under the agreement, which is not public and has not been submitted to the court for approval, MLB agreed that the future TV rights can be marketed separately from the team. Terms of the agreement are described in court filings and a joint statement from the Dodgers and MLB.

The bankruptcy case is In re Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, 11- 12010. The lawsuit is Los Angeles Dodgers LLC v. Fox Sports Net West 2 LLC, 11-53829. Both are in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Bathon in Wilmington, Delaware, at mbathon@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Pickering at jpickering@bloomberg.net.

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