Fox seeks immediate dismissal of Dodgers from bankruptcy
Fox Sports on Friday asked that the Dodgers be discharged from bankruptcy immediately, saying that owner Frank McCourt need not pursue a plan to market the team's television rights because he can repay his creditors in full now by selling the team.
In a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Fox said McCourt would be able to sell the Dodgers "for a handsome price," either with the current television contract intact or with a new owner negotiating a new television deal.
"Neither option requires these bankruptcy cases to continue," the filing read.
The Dodgers have asked for permission to market their television rights, thus enabling prospective buyers to learn the worth of those rights and perhaps make a higher bid for the team. Fox has asked the court to enforce the current contract, which forbids the Dodgers from negotiating with other media outlets before Nov. 30, 2012.
In his sale agreement with Major League Baseball, McCourt promised to identify a new owner by April 1 and close the deal by April 30.
"With the settlement with MLB and the impending sale of the Dodgers, it is time for Mr. McCourt to stand down," the Fox filing read.
The Dodgers responded with a nine-word statement: "Simply put, an act of utter desperation by Fox."
In this filing and others during the week, Fox made clear its unhappiness with MLB -- "Prime Ticket's former ally," as Fox put it -- in the league's failure to include the television company in settlement discussions and in leaving Fox to fight for itself once McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers.
"The telecast rights became the bargaining chip between MLB and Mr. McCourt to overcome Mr. McCourt's refusal to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite MLB's threats to exile the team from the league," the Fox filing read. "In effect, value paid for by Prime Ticket is to be auctioned to the highest bidder, and the proceeds enjoyed by Mr. McCourt in exchange for having relinquished team control."
Fox cited the signing of Matt Kemp to a $160-million contract earlier Friday as evidence that the Dodgers are "not a franchise hampered by financial distress" and called the bankruptcy filing "an elaborate contrivance by a desperate McCourt" to generate more cash for himself. Fox alleged the only reason for McCourt to sell the Dodgers' television rights now would be to fund "his divorce, his lavish lifestyle and his other personal obligations."
In underscoring its argument that the Dodgers' continued presence in bankruptcy would benefit only McCourt, the Fox attorneys quoted a judge's opinion in an unrelated case: "Bankruptcy laws were simply not intended to be used as a sword by the rapacious."
-- Bill Shaikin