Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig won’t testify next week when the bankrupt team and Fox Sports begin a court fight over the proposed sale of the club’s television rights, a judge ruled.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross today rejected Fox’s request to question Selig and McCourt under oath about what the company called the “secret parameters” of a deal to sell the Dodgers. Fox sought to expand a hearing about a proposal to start marketing the team’s future TV rights to include the agreement between MLB and the Dodgers.
“This case is rarely pure and never simple,” Gross said at a hearing in Wilmington, Delaware.
A two-day hearing about the TV rights will start Dec. 7 and evidence will be limited to experts on sports-media rights and the Dodgers’ current contract with Fox’s Prime Ticket unit, Gross said. The ruling was a victory for the team, which said Gross can decide on procedures for selling the TV rights without allowing Fox to bring up unrelated issues.
“We are pleased that the court will hear the Amended Telecast Rights Marketing Motion on Dec. 7 so that the media rights marketing process and the sale to maximize the value of the Los Angeles Dodgers can continue to move forward,” the team said in an e-mailed statement after today’s hearing.
The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy in June with plans to sell the television rights, which Fox Sports Net West 2 LLC holds through the 2013 season. The team wants to accelerate the marketing process for the rights by first giving Fox 45 days to extend its contract. Should that fail, the team would seek other bids, according to court documents.
Fox claims McCourt is wrongly trying use bankruptcy to break the team’s current TV contract with Fox’s Prime Ticket unit. Fox will ask Gross to dismiss the bankruptcy case at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 27.
Gross has ordered the two sides to try to resolve their differences through mediation. The mediator, retired U.S. District Judge Joseph Farnan, helped the Dodgers and Major League Baseball end their fight.
Under the Dodgers’ deal with MLB, McCourt agreed to sell the team and MLB agreed not to oppose a separate bidding process for the television rights. Under the proposed rules, no sale of the TV rights can go forward without approval from MLB, Gross and whoever wins the bidding for the team.
The bankruptcy case is In re Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, 11-12010 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).