Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A Confederacy Of Dunces

Pay careful attention to the misadventures of Aubrey Huff on the field, Dodger fans. Because off the field, according to Bill Shaikin, the progress of Frank and Jamie McCourt toward a settlement may force the issue into MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's court. (Thanks to SoSG reader Paul for the Monday night tipoff of Shaikin's early post.)

And we all know what will happen if the schlumpy sergeant of shrugs has to rule between having himself and the MLB sued, versus allowing McCourt to continue as Dodgers owner, even under highly-leveraged, operating cash-flow deferred circumstances. Honestly, this could portend years of future thriftiness and misery for the franchise:

Bud Selig backs down, or Frank McCourt backs down, or we could have another courtroom showdown.

That, ladies and gentlemen and fans of all ages, is your Dodgers season preview.

Not on the field, where the Dodgers celebrated the new season by taking three of four games from the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants over the weekend.

Off the field, however, as McCourt's struggle to maintain sole ownership of the Dodgers enters its 18th month, his legal antagonist might soon become the commissioner of baseball rather than his ex-wife.

The protracted divorce proceedings could be over soon, with an asterisk. As lawyers for Frank and Jamie McCourt work to craft a settlement, the Dodgers have revived negotiations with Fox on a television rights deal that could get each of the McCourts to shake hands and move on with their lives.

The asterisk is this: The television deal would be subject to Selig's approval.

The settlement negotiations are delicate, the parties are not talking publicly, and talks could fall apart at any time, so it is impossible to say what all the terms might be. However, when Fox agreed to lend Frank McCourt about $200 million, with the Dodgers' future television rights used as collateral at a discount rate, Selig rejected the proposal.

Under this new deal, McCourt would abandon — or at least defer for many years — his dream of a Dodgers cable channel, in exchange for a fair-market payment from Fox.

Better than fair, perhaps — in the neighborhood of $3 billion over 20 years, which would more than triple the Dodgers' annual television revenue. Fox is agnostic about McCourt, but the Dodgers became a must-keep team the second the Lakers fled to Time Warner.

McCourt would ask Selig for his blessing, arguing that the deal would provide plenty of money to settle the divorce, manage the Dodgers' debt and improve the team and the stadium.

And then we would find out just how badly Selig wants McCourt out.

Shaikin goes on to rightfully point out that Selig and MLB are already beset with the Mets' Madoff issues, let alone unhealthy ownership / city relationships with other teams. Acquiescing to Frank McCourt's demands could reduce Selig's Excedrin bills by 20-25%, even if it damns the franchise to decades more of ownership that includes financial shenanigans, ranging from full-time salaries to nepotistic causes, complex structuring to avoid paying income taxes in totality, or funding house payments on any one of a number of estates.

If the divorce proceedings have taught me anything about Frank McCourt, I've learned that he's a fighter, stubborn on issues even at risk of public embarrassment, if he believes he is in the right. He's obviously got no fear of litigious proceedings.

The question then is, how much of a backbone does Selig, and MLB, have?

Get your Pepto Bismol out. This promises to get more acidic.


Fred's Brim said...

Confederacy of Muntzes: Nelson and his family become professional Civil War reenactors

Orel said...

They're both commmuniss.

Neeebs (The Original) said...


Confederacy of Dunces is one of my all time favorite books.

Steve Sax said...

mine too, Neeebs