Dodgers ask court to authorize TV rights sale [UPDATED]
The Dodgers on Friday formally asked for permission to sell their television rights, the key to owner Frank McCourt's strategy to remain the owner of the team when it emerges from bankruptcy protection.
The Dodgers asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to authorize a 45-day exclusive negotiating window with Fox, followed if necessary by an auction. In court papers, the Dodgers said Fox, Time Warner, Charter, Dish Network and DirecTV all could be interested in paying the team a lucrative rights fee or partnering in a "Dodgers-branded RSN," in which the team would own all or part of the cable channel that airs its games.
With such a deal, the Dodgers say they would be able to emerge from bankruptcy protection next year, repay all of their creditors and have "excess cash of more than $175 million at the end of 2012."
The Dodgers said they were "hopeful" that Commissioner Bud Selig would approve a new television deal but were prepared to ask the Bankruptcy Court to overrule Selig if necessary.
[UPDATED 3:17 p.m.: "Objecting to the highest and best bid generated by this process ought to be hard to do," said Bruce Bennett, the Dodgers' lead bankruptcy lawyer. "It usually fails."
Bennett said the competitive bidding should result in a sale for significantly more than the $3 billion Fox deal proposed by McCourt and rejected by Selig.
In court papers, the Dodgers say that the bidding should resolve one of the primary factors cited by Selig in his rejection--that is, McCourt did not maximize his team's media rights because his immediate need for cash had compelled him to negotiate with Fox now rather than wait until he could solicit bids from other parties.
Major League Baseball had no comment, spokesman Pat Courtney said.]
The Dodgers say the auction of the television rights is the best way to raise money because "revenue from other sources such as radio telecast rights and merchandise sales is assumed to not materially improve" and "attendance, which has declined dramatically this year, will be slow to recover to levels enjoyed in previous years."
Fox, which currently holds exclusive cable rights through 2013, has threatened to sue the Dodgers for damages if they implement the plan they have asked the court to authorize. Major League Baseball also is expected to oppose the plan.
We'll have more later at latimes.com/sports.
-- Bill Shaikin
Photo: Frank McCourt. Credit: Jason Redmond / Associated Press.