Frank McCourt Set to Sell Dodgers in Wake of Financial Woes

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Author: Jack McHenry

The Los Angeles Dodgers are set to undergo a major shakeup this off-season as Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the team after owning it and Dodger Stadium since 2004. McCourt’s decision to sell the team came after accusations of financial impropriety and pressure from Major League Baseball (MLB), who seized the team from McCourt after they deemed him financially incapable of owning an MLB franchise. Stemming from a divorce settlement with heavy financial implications and the filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2011, McCourt has finally agreed to put the team up for sale. This turn of events has left many fans disappointed at McCourt’s apparent bottom line approach to owning, and eventually selling, the Dodgers and has many fans anticipating who will emerge as the next owner.

McCourt purchased the Dodgers in 2004 for $421 million. The purchase not only included the Dodgers franchise but also the stadium, the surrounding parking lots and some additional real estate in Chavez Ravine. Under the management of McCourt, the team experienced fluctuating success, perhaps peaking in 2009 when the addition of the eccentric Manny Ramirez brought offensive fire power. Also, young stars such as Andre Ethier led the team to a 95-67 season and a postseason appearance.

After the 2009 success, the Dodgers on-field performance declined significantly and McCourt found himself amid turmoil from the onset of the 2011 season with issues ranging from near lethal brawls in and around the stadium to increasing pressure from financial scrutiny.

The most serious of these allegations was that McCourt took nearly $190 million from Dodger revenue and put it towards personal interests, namely his commercial real estate endeavors. There was also foul play through a Dodger charity organization called Dodgers’ Dream Foundation in which the head of the charity received one-third of the revenues as salary. While McCourt paid back $100,000 out of pocket, it was perhaps representative of greater financial corruption within the Dodger organization under McCourt’s leadership. The undeniable fact in all of the negotiations is that McCourt bought the Dodgers for $421 million and is selling them for $1 billion, more than doubling his profit on a seven-year investment.

McCourt filed for bankruptcy in late June of 2011, and by the middle of the season the Dodgers had abysmal attendance records that can be attributed to a variety of factors. The poor performance of the team undoubtedly diminished attendance, but threats of violence in the stadium and to some level disapproval of McCourt himself contributed as well.

Now that McCourt is no longer owner, there is tremendous speculation as to who will be his replacement. One suitor, former owner Peter O’Malley, has worked his way back into the Dodger organization and has made it clear that he would once again desire to own the team. O’Malley, along with former Dodgers pitchers Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park, is now in charge of the Dodgers’ spring training facility in Florida. Whether this bodes for advancement in the organization or not, O’Malley has made it clear he is more than willing to accept McCourt’s mantle.

Other names are flying around the rumor mill that are noteworthy. Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey, who both used to suit up for the Dodgers, have been in the conversation, but it is unlikely they will be anything more than minority owners if a deal pans out. Perhaps the most intriguing name in the conversation has been Mark Cuban, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

While controversial and brash, Cuban has put the time, effort and money into bringing a Championship to Dallas. Many players enjoy being in Dallas because Cuban goes the extra mile for them in terms of amenities and player accommodations that an owner can control.

It is doubtful that the MLB and strict commissioner Bud Selig, let alone a city full of rabid Lakers fans, will accept Cuban due to his Dallas affiliations. Additionally, Cuban has stated that the asking price of $1 billion is too high. Only time will tell who will be sitting in that owners box come opening day. of next season.

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