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Frank McCourt to Bud Selig: I can never thank you enough

February 18, 2012 |  3:37 pm

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I don’t know what the world record is for emerging from bankruptcy with the greatest amount of wealth, but you have to think our good buddy Frank McCourt is a serious contender.

Bankruptcy is designed to make sure creditors are paid, and you have to wonder at this point if there was ever any danger of that not happening. But McCourt chose bankruptcy, the courts accepted and it has led to a historic auction, the likes of which Sotheby’s has never imagined.

Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan finds it incomprehensible that after leaving the Dodgers the laughingstock of baseball and dragging them into bankruptcy, McCourt could not only get the record $1.5 billion he was looking for, but possibly $2 billion and still own the parking lots.

The Times’ Bill Shaikin reports that, aside from TV rights, team revenue and the parking lots, whether the sale price is ultimately closer to $1.5 or $2 billion could largely depend on how much renovation Dodger Stadium is deemed to need.

McCourt now claims it doesn’t need significant renovation, which sort of goes against his grand 2008 plan for a transformation that was estimated then to cost $500 million. And, oh yeah, was supposed to be completed before the start of the 2012 season.

In a stunning development, McCourt found financing a tad difficult to come by.

Yet despite everything, despite the embarrassment of bankruptcy, an ugly public divorce that exposed his and wife Jamie's horrendous greed and perhaps the worst year in team history, McCourt is about to exit richer than anyone –- no doubt including him -- ever dreamed.

The McCourts purchased the Dodgers for $430 million in 2004 without spending a dime of their own money, using equity in a Boston parking lot. Now even after paying Jamie a settlement of $131 million once the team sells, paying off $573 million in debt and possibly more than $200 million in sales taxes, McCourt could walk away with around $1 billion?

Wonder if Jamie would like to rework that settlement.

No one has any real clue which of the 11 surviving bidders will get the team, though if it does become more of a vanity purchase than a practical one, the deep pockets of Steve Cohen and Magic Johnson’s group are impressive. Newhan said the Joe Torre-Rick Caruso group has picked up the backing of a member of the David Thomson family, the wealthiest in Canada. Groups could yet merge, and still floating out there are local billionaires Ron Burkle and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

No one knows this better than Frank McCourt. His feud with Commissioner Bud Selig is looking like the best thing that ever happened to him.

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Newhan also had this interesting mention in his blog post:

“… sources also revealed that none of the investors are particularly happy with the Dodgers' eight year, $160 million, back loaded signing of Matt Kemp, and the two year, $19 million contract to Clayton Kershaw.”

Jon Weisman at Dodgers Thoughts found this particularly unsettling, arguing the Dodgers were simply giving competitive salaries to their two best players.

Which is true, of course, but if you’re about to be the new owner, no doubt you would like to be the one negotiating the salaries. It is your future debt, and neither contract had to be done now.

Kemp’s salary, compared to subsequent deals signed by Albert Pujols ($240 million) and Prince Fielder ($214 million), could prove a relative bargain if he continues to produce anywhere near his 2011 level.

Of course, the difference is Pujols and Fielder have performed at the highest level for several years. Kemp reached true elite status only last year, and the Dodgers are counting on the 2011 version and not the 2010 one.

Kershaw’s deal is another matter. Two is an unusual number of years to give a player in the first year of arbitration. The Dodgers guaranteed him $6 million this season, meaning he gets $13 million next year. For that, they essentially got nothing in return, save for avoiding a year of arbitration.

So the Dodgers have taken an expensive gamble that Kershaw doesn’t blow out his elbow. Normally if a team does make that kind of commitment, the contract is extended to at least buy out a year or two of free agency.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Commissioner Bud Selig with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt during a ceremony in 2006. Credit: Ric Francis / Associated Press

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