December 19, 2014

Does Dodgers Bankruptcy Put McCourt in the Drivers Seat For Now?

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today, citing the rejection of a 17-year TV deal with Fox for roughly $2.7 billion as a prime factor. The McCourts were close to finalizing their divorce proceeding and McCourt allegedly planned to use about $150 million from the agreement to settle a divorce with his wife, Jamie, and to pay off outstanding debts. McCourt and his former wife have previously acknowledged using about $100 million in salary and loans taken against the club to finance their lifestyle.

How does bankruptcy help McCourt and the Dodgers fend off what many are calling inevitable – the sale of the team?

Attorney Chris Ward told the Wall Street Journal that McCourt’s filing may eventually pave the way for a bankruptcy court to approve the Fox Sports deal previously rejected by MLB:

Given that Major League Baseball didn’t approve the TV contract, without that revenue they’re not going to be able to operate. They may have some more leverage to get the Fox TV transaction approved in bankruptcy court over the objections of Major League Baseball. That’s what really precipitated the bankruptcy filing.

McCourt will likely be able to stay in an ownership position while all of this plays out despite the fact that the MLB consitution gives Selig the right to strip McCourt of ownership should he file bankruptcy. That’s because, according to the Los Angeles Times, bankruptcy courts can overrule MLB rules while the actual bankruptcy proceedings play out. So while MLB will likely get its way in the end, McCourt has played the one card he had left after the rejection of the Fox deal and has graced the Dodger community with more antics as the ownership saga continues to unfold.

Attorney Chris Ward also agrees that the move was really the best one McCourt could make at this point:

Deal Journal: What do you think of what the Dodgers are trying to do?

Ward: It gives them an upper hand that they didn’t have before. Strategically it was probably the right move to make. was kind enough to post the filing so you can read the details. Manny Ramirez is the largest creditor with over $20 million due (no surprise there) but lots of other current, former, and minor league players are on that list as well. Poor Vin Scully is stilll owed over $100k on his contract (here’s hoping he gets all of it) and the team apparently also has over $300k in unsecured credit card debt with Bank of America according to the filing.

Video summary courtesy of ESPN