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Could Mets owner Fred Wilpon help save the Dodgers for Frank McCourt?

As the Dodgers settled in for spring training last year, five months after the acrimonious divorce between Frank and Jamie McCourt revealed their lavish spending, Frank McCourt said he was grateful the spotlight had been diverted elsewhere in the sports world.

"Tiger Woods was fantastic for me," McCourt told USA Today.

Not nearly as fantastic as Fred Wilpon could be for him.

Wilpon, the Mets' principal owner, said two weeks ago he would consider selling 20% to 25%  of the franchise, in order to resolve liability associated with the Bernie Madoff scandal. That might not be enough, since Forbes magazine estimates the Mets' worth at $858 million and the trustee representing the Madoff victims is demanding $1 billion from the Mets' ownership group.

Wilpon has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to fight the trustee in court. For more on the issue, here's a primer from MLB Trade Rumors and a detailed story from the New York Times. From the perspective of McCourt and the Dodgers, though, the focus is on this quote from the N.Y. Times story:

"What the trustee is looking for here is a payment in cash," said David Sheehan, the lead lawyer for trustee Irving Picard. "So whether they utilize the Mets, SNY ... or any other resource is of no moment to us. What we're looking for is a billion dollars, and ... where they get the money is of no moment to us."

What that means is that Wilpon could sell a share in the Mets and/or SNY, the team-owned cable channel, to help finance a settlement, at $1 billion or something less. And what that means for baseball is that Wilpon would be diverting the money generated from any such sales to resolve litigation rather than to improve the team.

McCourt and his attorneys would find that extremely interesting.

Commissioner Bud Selig has so far resisted any deal in which Fox would pay McCourt a hefty sum in exchange for the Dodgers' long-term broadcast rights. The logic: The money Fox would pay should go to improve the team, not to pay off an ex-wife in a divorce settlement.

The Wilpon and McCourt sagas are far from over, and it is unclear whether either man can make good on his vow to maintain control of his team.

Selig has granted Wilpon a meeting, a courtesy the commissioner has not extended to McCourt. It is no secret that Selig wants McCourt out.

If Wilpon and McCourt each can find the financing to keep his team -- when that revenue would not go to improve the team -- could Selig say yes to Wilpon and no to McCourt? Given McCourt's history of litigation, that position could be extremely uncomfortable for the commissioner's office.

-- Bill Shaikin



Comments () | Archives (8)

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I hate to see either one have to lose control because you never know what the new owners would be like.
As it stands now I purchase old Brooklyn Dodger shirts and memorabilia from Citi Field and at MCU park, since the Wilpons grew up and were Dodger fans in Brooklyn, I wonder if this will continue.
One thing I must say about McCourt he likes to carry on old Dodger traditions and like former owners kept, shall I say, Brooklyn in the team, and not separating them into two teams, like most New Yorkers often do. I wonder if that will continue.

"The logic: The money Fox would pay should go to improve the team, not to pay off an ex-wife in a divorce settlement."

God bless.

Selig should say NO to both, and restore responsible financcial management to the game all around.

"It is no secret that Selig wants McCourt out." It's a total secret to the readers of the Times Selig supposedly wants him out. It's a secret to the Times it was Selig who installed McCourt to saddle the Dodgers with a cash-broke owner who would not become the Steinbrenner of the West. The Times has never commented on the fact the divorce papers showed McCourt's plan was to continually shrink payroll to meet, specifically, Selig's desires on behalf of the other owners to keep player payroll down everywhere outside the Northeast axis. Readers of the Times' Dodgers paper-thin coverage had to divine the tea leaves to understand any of the above.

Ancient readers of the Times have to remember on their own Selig's public diktat to McCourt he had better get out of the hunt for free agent Vlad Guerrero in 2003 or face up to the agreement he made with MLB to get the Dodgers. How much more blatant can it get, Bill?

Selig has carried McCourt's water since. Could it be the Times is not telling its readers Selig has lined up another cash-broke parasite to own the Dodgers because "Selig wants McCourt out"? According to the needs of the other owners Selig works for, they still don't want a Yankees of the West, so has Selig lined up another skinflint to afflict LA, to take over from Frank and end his interminably bad p.r. situation?

Your assertion, Bill, needs to be fleshed out, in light of all the facts noted above, in a series of exposes. Which the Times unofficially loathes when it must go where the truth lies, negatively impacting the strong men at the top of the organization, Selig more than McCourt, who is his lackey keeping player costs down at the expense of Dodger tradition.

Dodger fans should learn from the Egyptian people, gather for hours-on-end in a place near and dear to Frank, the Dodger Stadium PARKING LOT, demanding his voluntary exile from anywhere west of Beantown.

Further: Assuming Selig wants to help Wilpon out of his NY mess, and doesn't want to help McCourt retain the Dodgers until the supposed big FSN deal kicks in in a few years, is that assumption based on the vague report Selig didn't attend McCourt's meetings in NY with MLB? Why could it not merely mean MLB will approve, or has approved, the loan from Fox---isn't that a done deal, especially if the loan is considered a private one to McCourt?? Pardon me, but none of that has ever been explicitly spelled out in the Times.

Regardless, it is up to Dodger fans, the true stewards of Dodger tradition, to boycott games and all Dodger products, knowing that doing so will jettison McCourt outtahere, ending this farce Selig originally saddled us with, no matter what he supposedly now wants. Tho the secret details, known only to the Times and not its readers, are pertinent to the identity of the next Dodger owner, and whether Selig, protected by media from the fans, will only approve yet another bloodsucker in his place.

Bottom line is, if the Dodgers are ever to compete again. We need mcCourt out.

Native Angeleno:

The assertion that Selig installed McCourt as the Dodgers' owner in order to keep salaries down is a myth. That McCourt has not spent like Steinbrenner might appeal to other owners, but that would be a byproduct of the sale to McCourt, not the reason for it.

Fox wanted out. To own a team no longer fit the Fox business plan. But Fox had the team on the market for several years, without success. Fox had been losing in the range of $50 million per year running the Dodgers. McCourt was willing to buy, and Selig accommodated Fox--baseball's national TV partner--and McCourt, who had previously bid unsuccessfully for the Red Sox and Angels.

To say Selig installed McCourt to keep the payroll down assumes that Selig hand-picked McCourt ahead of other bidders for the Dodgers. Bidders were not lined up.

The Times has covered McCourt's business plan extensively, including:


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