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Frank McCourt takes control (again); new executive Steve Soboroff gives it a positive spin (again)

April 19, 2011 |  8:31 pm

Mccourt Say this for Frank McCourt: If he hangs on and actually develops that baseball version of Universal City Walk out in the center-field parking lot, he won’t lack for in-house real estate development guys.

On Tuesday, McCourt held a staff meeting, essentially to introduce Steve Soboroff as his latest vice chairman, but also, a Dodgers source said, to announce he was going to fully re-engage himself in the day-to-day operations of the ballclub (supply own punchline).

McCourt said exactly the same thing in October when he severed ties with club President Dennis Mannion. Only this time, he really means it.

Soboroff is a real estate developer who becomes the seventh current club executive to report directly to McCourt.

Soboroff, 62, has long been a fixture in the Los Angeles community and ran for mayor in 2001, finishing third. He is charged with improving the "fan experience" and strengthening the team’s ties to the community.

Until Tuesday, I didn’t personally know Steve Soboroff from Steve Martin, though I do appreciate the effort of each to expand outside their areas of expertise.

Soboroff comes off just like someone who has spent a large portion of their lives in politics would -- he was formerly chief advisor to former mayor Richard Riordan and president of the parks and recreation commission -- smooth, bold, unafraid of a little self-promotion and vague when the questions became pointed.

Normally, of course, people are jumping off a sinking ship, not onto it.

Meeting with reporters in the Dodgers dugout during batting practice, he was Mr. Positive to the max.

"I’m a public policy guy and I can’t think of a better place for me to impact and make a positive statement in Los Angeles then from this," Soboroff said.

Soboroff said the fan experience can be improved by looking at sportsmanship throughout the city.

"It doesn’t start just at the turnstiles, it starts with parenting, it starts with neighbors, it starts with community pride and self-esteem," he said.

If Soboroff can pull off all that, he should forget about running for mayor and run for president.

Soboroff said he has no contract with the Dodgers, no stake in ownership, has seen the Dodgers’ financial statements and is convinced McCourt will be able to continue to own the team.

"To me that is a non-issue," he said. "I can read a balance sheet and I can read an income statement. When you look at a balance sheet and you look at assets and liabilities, and you look at assets that are realized and not realized, then there’s no question.

"Frank McCourt is financially fine. I mean, does he own everything free and clear? No. Does he have a few mortgages, does he have a lot of mortgages? Do I have a lot of mortgages? But his assets in relationship to his liabilities, believe me. You don’t have to believe me, you’ll see."

Asked what those unrealized assets were, besides a new television contract, he tap-danced like the best of politicians, going in three directions before finally saying, "There is a lot of revenue lines that can be increased through positive reinforcement."

Cleared that up. When it was mentioned that McCourt just had to take a second loan from Fox, this one for $30 million to make payroll this month, Soboroff shrugged it off.

"There are short-term and long-term assets, cash flow," he said. "That’s what banks are in business for. Haven’t any of us said it’s Christmas time, do this or do that?

"Frank is going to make payroll and this team is going to have great players, and next year it’s going to have great players and they’re going to have the money to have great players. There are assets behind this that I want to help realize the complete value for. The future here is great."

Feel better?

Soboroff also said, "I’m accessible. I’m going to do this open, I’m going to do it transparent."

Which is almost exactly what McCourt said when he purchased the club, and we all know how that went.

Soboroff said he knew nothing about that, but mentioning his 45 years of community involvement in Los Angeles, added: "Give me a break. Give me a chance."

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers owner Frank McCourt listens at a news conference about increased security at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA, April 14, 2011. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters