Friday, December 2, 2011

Does McCourt Really Intend to Sell?

     By Ross Newhan

     The sale of the Dodgers by Frank McCourt--via an agreement with Commissioner Bud Selig and under the auspices of Blackstone Advisory Partners--is proceeding at a deliberate pace--very deliberate.

     According to multiple sources who can not be identified because they are not authorized to speak for any of the involved parties, potential investors, of which there are about 20, have received and been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, and Blackstone is expected to have the "book" documenting the Dodgers financial structure ready for distribution next week or the week after.

    "This has been going on more than a month and no one has seen a book, including the top league officials who, I presume, would have to approve it," one of the sources said. "It makes you wonder."

    What he and others are wondering would provide Oliver Stone with a conspiracy script that would shock Dodger fans. 

    The question he and othes are asking is this:

     "Does McCourt really intend to sell or is he still seeking a way to retain ownership?"

    This is the way these theorists are starting to see it:

    --Although McCourt has a year to go under his current television contract with Fox, he has been seeking permission to negotiate with other media outlets. Fox has opposed that procedure, figuring it would ultimately negotiate a new contract wiith a new owner. The dispute has gone to mediation, a process that was supposed to end last week but was extended through the current week, suggesting that some form of progress is being made. Suppose McCourt emerges with an extension with Fox or the right to pursue a multi year, multi million dollar deal with another media outlet.

   --Suppose, at that point, McCourt figures he has or will have enough to pay creditors, his $130 million divorce from Jamie and retain operation of the Dodgers. All of these suppositions fall under the authority of the bankruptcy court, and the biggest challenge then for McCourt would have to be suing Selig for coercion in forcing him to sign his sale agreement with MLB.

   Before director Stone starts to salivate and distraught Dodger fans begin to Occupy Chavez Ravine, this is strictly the theory of several people involved in the process and a longshot at best, although as one person who is closely involved in the process said of McCourt:, "I wouldn't put anything past him or attempt to speculate about what he might or might not do. It is only in the last few weeks that I have come to realize how unpredictable he is."

   One thing seems beyond speculation or theory: If the Dodgers are going to have a new owner it will not happen by opening day.

   "Taking into consideration the current pace, the complex finances and the eventual background checks, I think the All-Star break is more likely," said one of the sources.

   In the meantime, McCourt has continued to feed the conspiracy theorists by suddenly agreeing to a $160 million contract with Matt Kemp (though it is largely back-loaded), lowering the price on some tickets and magnanimously contributing to the building of a new inner city diamond, as if these acts alone can rebuild his community image.

  In the general manager's office, however, it is unlikely that over-paying for catcher Matt Treanor, second baseman Mark Ellis, infielder Adam Kennedy, pitcher Chris Capuano and outfielder Juan Rivera will rebuild much of anything  

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