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Why Frank McCourt won't renege on selling the Dodgers

December 16, 2011 | 10:21 am

Frank3
We got a few emails and tweets from fans concerned about whether Dodgers owner Frank McCourt truly intends to sell the team or might be angling to hang onto it.

The linked posts accurately reflect what at least one prospective bidder has often wondered aloud: If McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers six weeks ago, why haven't his bankers sent out the so-called "bid book?"

We're told the books might go out Friday -- or, at the latest, next week. These books take some time to prepare in a normal sale -- let alone one in which the team, its television rights and the land surrounding the stadium could be sold separately or together.

The book is essentially a sales pitch: Here is some history about the team and the Los Angeles market, and here is an overview of the Dodgers' past financial performance and future financial projections.

The most detailed financial information would not be shared until a prospective owner submits an opening bid -- the tentative deadline is Jan. 13 -- and subsequently receives approval from Major League Baseball. The league has agreed to approve up to 10 bidders and let McCourt pick the winner.

When the U.S. Bankruptcy Court last week granted McCourt permission to sell the Dodgers' television rights along with the team, that raised the specter of whether he might soon approach the judge with something like this: "Look! I can sell the Dodgers' television rights for $4 billion! Bankruptcy, shmankruptcy, I can get the money to keep my team!"

However, Dodgers spokesman Robert Siegfried said a report that McCourt would do so was "erroneous."

"There is an agreement, publicly announced by Major League Baseball and the Los Angeles Dodgers, to sell the team," Siegfried said. "That is the process being undertaken."

Here's why McCourt is not planning to reverse course and try to keep the Dodgers: He would put hundreds of millions of dollars at risk to try a "hail Mary" strategy.

Remember, McCourt took the Dodgers into bankruptcy with the intention of selling the television rights so he could afford to keep the team.

The creditors objected, saying that "a prompt sale of the team is the most prudent course of action." Major League Baseball objected, alleging that McCourt siphoned $189 million from the team for personal use and violated 10 league rules, any of them grounds for termination of his franchise. MLB even threatened to kick the Dodgers out of the league.

Neither the creditors nor MLB objected to McCourt selling the television rights so long as he sold the team. If he comes back and tries to sell the TV rights but keep the team, we'll be right back where we were two months ago -- that is, McCourt vs. everyone else.

At that point, McCourt agreed to sell the team, in negotiations under the auspices of a court-appointed mediator. He would have to try to get the agreement revoked in that very same court, at the risk of angering the judge to the point where the court would take over the sale process or let MLB do so. McCourt refused to sell unless he could control the sale process, an MLB concession that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to him.

We should note that the court has not yet formally approved the agreement, although McCourt has signed it and it includes a provision calling his decision to sell "irrevocable."

Bottom line: Impossible? No, but the chances of Prince Fielder playing first base for the Dodgers next year appear better than the chances of such a strategy succeeding.

ALSO:

Fox appeal to be heard quickly

Dodgers Web musings: Fear and Frank McCourt; Bryan Stow speaks

Dodgers still fighting over Paul Shuey's salary

-- Bill Shaikin

Photo: Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Credit: Jason Redmond / Associated Press

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