The lost ownership of Frank and Jamie McCourt
It’s the end of the world as we know it -- what was that next verse again?
Listen, I’m stunned. Despite knowing the seriousness of the situation, despite witnessing Frank McCourt’s never-ending series of missteps, still stunned. For the world of sports, it’s an I-remember-where-I-was-when-I-heard-it moment.
Major League Baseball under Commissioner Bud Selig has never been this bold. This is not a professional league taking over a team in bankruptcy court; this is Selig actually being fairly proactive. Selig, of course, doesn’t pick out his daily shirt without getting a consensus, so you can feel certain that MLB taking control of the Dodgers from McCourt only happened after very deliberate prep work.
Selig had been very careful not to speak directly to any of the ills befalling the Dodgers under McCourt, but he spoke in foundation-rattling volumes Wednesday.
For McCourt, it was almost the perfect storm of blunders, almost all self-inflicted. The ugly divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt brought to light all their embarrassing, distasteful baggage -- from pulling over $100 million out of the club for personal use, to their extravagant lifestyle, to avoiding paying the IRS, to paying a Russian psychic to send positive vibes to the Dodgers from Boston, to plans to cut payroll.
And then the money ran out, and McCourt couldn’t find anyone to seriously bail him out. Not a bank, not some infomercial guy, not anyone but Fox.
McCourt’s grand scheme to save himself was to sign an approximate 20-year, $3-billion TV deal with Fox. Listen, you or I could run the Dodgers with that kind of money. Truth is, McCourt has none and never did. And Selig’s not innocent there, though if you remember, no one else wanted to purchase the Dodgers in 2003 until Eli Broad’s 11th-hour bid.
McCourt would have needed at least $430 million from that proposed Fox deal to pay off his previous debt and then likely would have to pay off Jamie for half the value of the team, which is somewhere around $1 billion.
When he had to personally borrow $30 million from Fox just to make payroll this month, Selig had enough. And he stepped up. All out of character and everything, thankfully.
McCourt had lost the fan base, lost the media and lost political support. He had lost the city; he just never knew it.
Now he’s lost the team, and I feel fine.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Frank McCourt, right, and his wife, Jamie, display Los Angeles Dodgers jerseys after announcing that Major League Baseball had approved his purchase of the Dodgers, at a news conference Jan. 9, 2004. Credit: Reed Saxon / AP