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New owner for Dodgers? Not right away

April 20, 2011 |  5:45 pm

Etooiwgy Although Commissioner Bud Selig wrested financial control of the Dodgers from Frank McCourt on Wednesday, the end of the era of McCourt ownership is neither imminent nor guaranteed.

Selig declined comment beyond a statement that he would appoint a trustee to oversee "all aspects of the business and day-to-day operations of the club." However, baseball officials who have spoken with him say he wants an ownership change in Los Angeles -- and has wanted one for some time.

Selig also has anticipated the possibility of a legal response by McCourt, which could delay any ownership change for some time, according to two parties briefed on Wednesday's announcement but not authorized to discuss it publicly. Neither McCourt nor any of his representatives had issued a statement within three hours of Selig's announcement.

In addition, the divorce of McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie, has yet to be settled. Jamie McCourt has asserted her claim of 50% ownership, based on California community property law. Those claims could take some time to resolve as well.

Selig generally prefers that owners live in the community in which the team plays and have some familiarity with Major League Baseball. The two parties most often mentioned as interested buyers, each of whom lives in Los Angeles, are Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and Chicago White Sox executive Dennis Gilbert.

On April 5, Frank McCourt presented Selig with a proposal from Fox for a 20-year television contract worth at least $3 billion, a deal McCourt said could provide funding to settle his divorce, manage the Dodgers' stiff debts and improve the team.

Selig has neither approved nor rejected the proposal. Since court papers revealed the McCourts had redirected more than $100 million from Dodgers revenues for personal expenses, Selig was loath to approve any deal in which significant revenues would not go into the team, according to numerous baseball officials.

In addition, according to the parties briefed on Wednesday's announcement, Selig had not received any written assurance from Jamie McCourt that she had agreed to settle the divorce if the commissioner approved the Fox contract.

Jamie McCourt remains interested in buying all of the Dodgers, although it is unlikely that Major League Baseball would approve an ownership group with her involved. She issued a statement welcoming Selig's decision.

Also, according to the parties briefed on Selig's decision, the commissioner was angry to read the comments from Steve Soboroff, appointed Tuesday as the Dodgers' vice chairman, in which Soboroff said, "Frank McCourt is financially fine." Selig did not act in response to Soboroff's comments, the parties said, but the commissioner was said to be floored and dismayed by them.

-- Bill Shaikin

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