U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross on Wednesday approved the Dodgers' settlements with Major League Baseball and Fox Sports, clearing the most significant legal obstacles from the pending sale of the team.
The approvals conclude an 807-day period in which Dodgers owner Frank McCourt had opposed his ex-wife, MLB and/or Fox in court. He now has settled with all three parties.
McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie, filed for divorce on Oct. 27, 2009, and he vowed the Dodgers would remain his. After battles in divorce court and Bankruptcy Court, McCourt has agreed to sell the Dodgers by April 30, the same date by which he must pay his ex-wife $131 million.
"We have a relatively short time left for the sale process," Gross said. "The settlement will allow the process to proceed without distraction."
The Dodgers are expected to command a price above -- perhaps far above -- the $845 million paid for the Chicago Cubs in 2009, the current record for an MLB franchise. With civic icons, sports legends and assorted billionaires lining up in a star-studded pursuit that includes the likes of Magic Johnson, Joe Torre and Peter O'Malley, McCourt believes the Dodgers might even fetch double the price paid for the Cubs.
"From what I read in the papers -- and I can't avoid the papers -- there are a lot of people interested," Gross said.
Each bidder must pay $25,000 to MLB, covering the league's cost to investigate a prospective buyer, an MLB attorney said Wednesday.
Gross saluted attorneys on all sides and in particular retired U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Farnan, the mediator who shepherded the Dodgers' settlements with MLB and Fox.
"I want to congratulate everyone," Gross said. "I know it has been a tough case and, at times, an emotional one. The fact that the parties were able to put their differences aside and enter a settlement that clearly is in everyone's best interest is a credit to all of you."
-- Bill Shaikin
Photo: Frank McCourt. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times