Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball finally reached an agreement late yesterday to sell one of the sport's most storied franchises, ending a seven-year run that included four trips to the postseason before recently becoming mired in legal troubles capped by a filing for bankruptcy protection.
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McCourt and baseball Commissioner Bud Selig had traded shots through the media since MLB took control of day-to-day operation of the team in April over concerns about the team's finances and the way it was being run. McCourt apparently realized a sale of the club he vowed never to give up was in his best interest and that of the fans.
The embattled owner filed for bankruptcy protection in June after the league rejected a seventeen-year TV contract with Fox, reported to be worth up to $3 billion, that he needed to keep the team afloat. Selig noted that almost half of an immediate $385 million payment would have been diverted from the Dodgers to McCourt.
The franchise's demise grew out of McCourt's prolonged divorce from wife Jamie, and the couple's dispute over the ownership of the team. The divorce highlighted decadent spending on mansions and beach homes and using the team as if it were their personal credit card. They took out more than $100 million in loans from Dodgers-related businesses for their own use, according to divorce documents.
In bankruptcy filings, attorneys for MLB said McCourt "looted" more than $180 million in revenues from the club for personal use unrelated to the team.
"The Dodgers are in bankruptcy because Mr. McCourt has taken almost $190 million out of the club and has completely alienated the Dodgers' fan base," the baseball attorneys wrote.
Dodgers attorneys claimed Selig deliberately starved the club of cash and destroyed its reputation in a bid to seize control of the team and force its sale.
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The team was asking Judge Kevin Gross in Delaware to approve an auction of the team's television rights as the best way to get out of bankruptcy, but the league wanted to file a reorganization that called for the team to be sold.
The new owner will be the third since Peter O'Malley sold the team to News Corporation in 1998. The Dodgers had remained in the O'Malley family since Walter O'Malley moved the club from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958.
The team finished this season with an 82-79 record, good enough for a third-place finish in the NL West.