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Dodgers can hold early sale of TV rights, judge rules [UPDATED]

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The Dodgers can sell their television rights along with the team, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross ruled Thursday.

Fox Sports now has until Jan. 14 to negotiate a new television contract with the Dodgers, after which the team can entertain bids from other potential broadcast partners.

However, Fox plans to seek a 14-day stay of Gross' ruling and file an appeal as well, Fox attorney Gregory Werkheiser said.

Dodgers attorney Bruce Bennett said he hoped to reach an agreement with Fox that would satisfy the company that it could pursue a stay and proceed with negotiations at the same time. The parties are expected to resume mediation as well.

The Dodgers’ current television contract with Fox Sports prevents the team from negotiating with another broadcast outlet before Nov. 30, 2012. Gross did not agree with Fox that moving that date up would constitute irreparable harm.

"I am satisfied the proposed modifications are not material," Gross said.

Gross issued his ruling at the end of a two-day hearing. He said he believed the accelerated sale of television rights was in the best interest of the Dodgers and their creditors. The creditors' committee supported the Dodgers in the hearing.

He did not address the issue of whether the Dodgers might be liable for any financial damages.

The judge said he would issue a written ruling explaining his decision in coming days.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the team by April 30. He and his advisers had argued the Dodgers would command a higher sale price if the television rights could be sold now and bidders would know exactly how many billions a new television contract would be worth.

The bidder would not be obligated to proceed with that contract.

Fox had argued the contract should be enforced as is, with negotiations on a new Dodgers television contract left to whatever party buys the team. Fox also alleged the Dodgers would be liable for “massive” damages, a claim the Dodgers disputed.

We’ll have more later at latimes.com/sports.

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-- Bill Shaikin in Wilmington, Del.

Photo: Dodgers batting helmet. Credit: Eric Miller / Reuters

 
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