Friday, January 13, 2012

MCourt Should Rub in One More Irritant: Prince Fielder

     By Ross Newhan

     It seems like every day now a billionaire steps off the pages of Forbes and onto the bid list for the Dodgers. Some two dozen groups or more will be submitting initial offers Jan. 23, and it is obvious that Frank McCourt could come out of bankruptcy with a price that doubles the current record of $885 million for the Chicago Cubs. No wonder major league owners extended Commissioner Bud Selig's contract for two years, through 2014 when he will be 80

     Most of them would love the same deal Selig arranged for McCourt, and sources confirm there was plenty of back-biting about it at the owners meeting in Arizona. First of all, Selig bows to Rupert Murdoch's pressure to sell the Dodgers in order that his Fox Group can get out from under claimed losses of $60 million a year, so McCourt is allowed to buy the Dodgers without one dime of his own money, the purchase underwritten by Fox. Now, in order to get McCourt out, Selig and owners will winnow the bid list to 10 groups, and McCourt himself will be permitted to select the auction winner by April 30.

    Make no mistake, he has plenty of debts to pay off, including the $131 million divorce settlement with Jamie, but he's going to come out of this with enough money to support his accustomed lifestyle, and if that total scenario isn't annoying enough to the 29 other owners, there's one step McCourt could take to really rub it in--to Selig and his owners.

    McCourt should find some way to beat the Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners to Prince Fielder.

    Most owners have shied away from agent Scott Boras desire to get Fielder a contract similar to Albert Pujols' princely, 10 year deal with the Angels. After all, Fielder is five years younger than Pujols. The fear has been that in eight to 10 years he will be more sumo than slugger.

    However, McCourt might be able to sell Fielder on the big market opportunities of Los Angeles in a six year, back loaded contract.

   A few investors, of course, might be disinterested in taking on the Fielder obligation.

  On the other hand, in tandem with Matt Kemp, he would turn the Dodgers into an instamt contender in the National League West, which they are not now, enhancing the club's potential value.

  My suspicion is that in some account somewhere, McCourt has the money to pull it off, and given the likely sale price of $1.5 billion or more, wouldn't that be another irritant to the commissioner who is forcing him out and those owners who are wondering how they can arrange a similar deal.   

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