Tuesday, April 26, 2011

McCourt on Way Out! How Does Selig Remain Unscathed?

      By Ross Newhan

      All signs point to Frank McCourt being removed as owner of the Dodgers.

      It is what I wrote must happen in my last blog, and now, with Major League Baseball's appointment of the respected Tom Schieffer as "monitor," a gentle way of saying he will serve as club president, supervising all aspects of the club's operation as he attempts to save this flagship franchise from total humiliation under the divorcing McCourts, Frank will pay a costly and embarrasing price for his extravagant lifestyle and highly leveraged business approach.

    McCourt will meet with major league executives in New York on Wednesday in an attemt to convince them that he has a television deal in place with Fox that will relieve his financial problems and that his new vice president, Steve Soboroff, is ready with a program that will re-engage the Dodgers with the community.

    Otherwise, McCourt is expected to mount a legal challenge, although he is already $430 million in debt according to court documents filed in his divorce case, needed a $30 million loan from Fox to meet the first payroll of the new season and is already paying lawyers handling his divorce and a suit against his former Boston law firm.

    Meanwhile, Commissioner Bud Selig continues to emerge comparatively unscathed for his questionable role in this embarrassing chapter.

   Only Jason Reid in the Washington Post and this writer, in recent blogs and a column I recently wrote for ESPN/Los Angeles, have attempted to cover the history, pointing out that Selig's approval of the McCourts' purchase of the Dodgers was completed despite widespread concerns and questions related to McCourt's finances.

   Reid and I, both then with the L.A. Times, wrote about it frequently before the purchase was approved, but none of our former colleagues have chosen to reprise the history. Selig has been treated as a hero by many of those former colleagues for now stepping into the situation with the appointment of Schieffer, but none of this might have happened if Selig had resisted the arm twisting by Rupert Murdoch at the helm of Fox, which was providing a large chunk of baseball's overall revenue and willing to underwrite a large percentage of the McCourt's purchase of the Dodgers, being that anxious to dump an ownership tenure as tumultuous as the McCourts' would become.

   "It was a total surprise," a former Dodger executive said by phone Tuesday, referring to the McCourts' purchase. "I had many CFOs in baseball tell me it wasn't going to happen."

   Murdoch was willing to loan McCourt $145 million to help make it happen, and also got him to accept a TV contract that several sources told me was highly undervalued.

   Selig found it impossible to say no given Fox's vast tentacles into baseball and now must be considered an accomplice in what has followed.

   At least he has appointed a widely admired "monitor" to sort out the mess.

   Schieffer, a lawyer, is a former Congressman, displomat, ambassador and team president. He has said he will stay with the Dodgers until the job is finished, meaning until a new owner is in place. He has similar credentials to those of George Mitchell, the former Senator and diplomat whose negotiating skills contributed to peace in Ireland, and who was appointed by Selig (tardily, critics might say) to conduct a full scale investigation into baseball's steroid era. Untimately, the Mitchell Report produced a few new names and some comparatively new information related to which players were involved in providing a conduit to the acquisition of steroids and HGH.

   Unfortunately, that era still continues to stain baseball.

   With Schieffer in control of the Dodgers, the stain of the McCourt ownership seens on the verge of being rubbed out.  


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