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News and information about the sale of all or part of any of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs.

With Questions Lingering, Vote to Approve Sale of Astros to Jim Crane Delayed PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 15 August 2011 14:36

UPDATED: Added league statement


The scheduled vote to approve the sale of the Houston Astros from Dayton McLane to Jim Crane has been delayed, according to a report by Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle and confirmed by league sources to BizofBaseball.com. The vote is being delayed to conduct further due-diligence – even after doing so for 3 months prior – on Crane. According to the league, the feeling is that currently there is not sufficient support to conduct a vote of the league’s 29 other owners to approve Crane. It is not known whether there is enough concern to prevent Crane from being approved in the sale, period, even after further due-diligence is conducted.

The league released a statement reading, “The standard due diligence that must be completed before any transaction of this magnitude can close remains ongoing. Because that procedure is continuing, it is not expected that the proposed sale of the Astros will go to the approval process at this week’s owners meetings. Major League Baseball will continue to work as expeditiously as possible to complete the process.”

The league would not say whether Crane’s company, Eagle Global Logistics prior dealings with Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner in 1997, or war profiteering during the Iraq War continues to play a part. After stories surfaced here on BizofBaseball.com, Forbes, and the New York Times, it was reported that Crane diversified his ownership group with more minorities. Former Houston Rocket great Clyde Drexler has been rumored to be part of Crane’s group.

SEE Why Jim Crane Could Become Baseball’s Most Controversial Owner

Sources did say that the financial structure of the deal between Crane and Drayton McLane was “not something to focus on.” Crane’s deal would be leveraged and put the club in violation of the league’s debt service rules, but unlike Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who had a leveraged purchase, Crane has a considerable amount of liquid capital at his disposal.

As early as two weeks ago, sources to The Biz of Baseball felt confident that a vote to approve Crane would take place.

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Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Dodger Losses Projected to be $27M for This Year, Down $42M Since 2009 PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Saturday, 13 August 2011 11:38

Based on final financial numbers submitted to Major League Baseball last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers are on pace to lose $27 million, according to league executives. The losses this season could be worse, should declines continue through the second half of August and through September.

The losses are tied to the decline in attendance. Ticket sales, parking revenue, concessions, and other related revenues are all attributed to the decline. Television revenues will remain flat compared to last year. Frank McCourt is seeking to auction off future television rights through a Delaware bankruptcy court. The action is being requested through the courts as MLB rejected an extension from Dodgers with FOX. That deal would have seen $385 million in up-front payments, but the league scoffed at the deal as just $235 million would have gone to the Dodgers. The rest of the balance would have gone to McCourt to pay for legal bills associated to his divorce from former wife, Jamie.

Also, Bill Shaikin of the LA Times is reporting today that based on court documents that Dodgers are likely to lose $42 million since 2009. The year prior, Manny Ramirez, a huge marketing draw, arrived in the second half of the season. The team went on to win the NL West and NLCS that season and in 2009.

Other information from the court documents filed Friday, according to Shaikin:

  • The Dodgers owe severance payments of $1.025 million to former executive vice president Charles Steinberg and $254,800 to former president Dennis Mannion.
  • The Dodgers paid $324,546 last April to Kroll, the consulting firm that employs former Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton. In the wake of the Bryan Stow beating, the Dodgers retained Bratton to lead a Kroll team to develop a long-term "security blueprint" for Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots.
  • The Dodgers Dream Foundation, a club charity, was penalized $4,080 by the Internal Revenue Service. The Dodgers have reimbursed $361,432 to the charity to resolve an investigation by the state attorney general.
  • The Dodgers spent $5,630 on "Boston Red Sox tickets for McCourt family and guests." The filing does not specify the games for which tickets were purchased, but the payment was made in June 2010, a month in which the Dodgers played the Red Sox in Fenway Park.

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Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Vote to Approve Jim Crane as New Owner of Astros Likely Part of Upcoming Owners Meetings PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 02 August 2011 08:39

Barring an unforeseen hitch, MLB’s owners will be discussing and putting to vote the sale of the Houston Astros to Jim Crane as part of the upcoming quarterly MLB owners meetings set for August 17-18, according to league sources.

The sale has been held up as the league has addressed the bankruptcy of the Los Angeles Dodgers and looked further into Crane’s background (see Why Jim Crane Could Become Baseball’s Most Controversial Owner) and the financial structure of the $680 million deal which will put Crane in violation of MLB’s debt service rule.

The sale transfer must be approved by 75 percent of the league’s thirty owners. Rarely do votes take place unless Commissioner Selig is aware of their positive outcome.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Dodgers Bankruptcy Hearing Reveals McCourt Putting Club in Deeper Debt PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 20 July 2011 14:02

A hearing in a Delaware bankruptcy courtroom today will seek to determine whether a hedge fund or Major League Baseball will fund all or part of the remaining balance of $150 million in debtor in possession (DIP) financing for the Dodgers as it weaves through the process.

As the hearing has unfolds before Judge Kevin Gross, some details are emerging:

  • Frank McCourt refinanced a $67 million loan for Blue Land Co. an entity McCourt has created, and pays $14 million in year in rent to – ostensibly moving money from one hand to the other. Initially, Sovereign Bank declined the refinance, but later agreed to at higher fees and interest.
  • McCourt’s lawyer has argued that the difference between the loan from hedge fund Highbridge and the one MLB is offering, is really $6.5 million, not $15 million as the league has said, when other bookkeeping is factored in.
  • McCourt’s lawyer said that the league is ill-equipped to handle a loan of the size needed for DIP financing, yet in a deposition, Exec. VP of Administration for MLB, John McHale, Jr. said the league had $400 million in Central Fund money with which to work from, more than enough to satisfy the DIP funding.
  • On cross-examination, Jeff Ingram, the Dodgers Vice-Chairman admits that Highbridge has never provided DIP financing to anyone in the past.
  • Ingram also admits that the loan from MLB would actually be $14 million cheaper than the one from Highbridge.
  • The Dodgers are still holding firm that they believe that money aside, the true endgame by MLB is to take control of the club, and that they would rather use Highbridge DIP financing than MLB’s as they believe it will offer more control by the league as a threat to remove McCourt.
  • If the loan from MLB is approved, McCourt is personally on the hook for $5.25 million. If the loan goes to Highbridge, just the fees and interest would apply.

Follow @EricFisherSBJ, @BillShaikin, and @Boomskie on Twitter for a running account of the hearing as it plays out.

The hearing is continuing. Updates as they become available.

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Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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New York Times Sells $117 million Stake in Boston Red Sox PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 01 July 2011 15:32

The Red SoxThe New York Times has sold off a considerable share of Fenway Sports Group, the venture company that owns the Boston Red Sox, for $117 million to three separate undisclosed buyers, according to the Boston Globe.

According to the report, the Times Co. sold off 390 units, according to a filing with securities regulators, and has reduced its stake to 7.3 percent of Fenway Sports Group.

The Times purchased a 17 percent stake in the then New England Sports Ventures for $75 million in 2002. According to filings, the Times Co. will get a pre-tax gain of approximately $64 million in the deal.

The Times officially put the 17 percent stake in the club for sale in Dec. of 2009.

Fenway Sports Group includes English Premier League club Liverpool FC; approx. 80 percent of regional sports network NESN; and 50 percent of Roush Fenway Racing.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Los Angeles Dodgers Payroll Checks Bounce PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 30 June 2011 21:42

The sad state of affairs under the Frank McCourt ownership continues, as celebrity website TMZ is reporting that at least one Dodger employee had their $497.54 payroll check bounce. The report, replete with an image of the check in question, shows Frank McCourt’s signature on the line.

With McCourt filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and a judge allowing McCourt to use an initial debtor in possession financing amount of $60 million, the club said told the employees that new checks have been reissued and will not bounce. Of course, who knows whether they picked up any overdraft fees that may have hit the poor souls’ bank accounts.

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Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Selig on Dodgers Chapter 11: "Action taken today by Mr. McCourt does nothing but inflict further harm to this historic franchise" PDF Print E-mail
MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 27 June 2011 16:03

DodgersCommissioner Selig issued the following statement today regarding the Los Angeles Dodgers filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy:

“The Commissioner’s Office has spent the better part of one year working with Mr. McCourt and his representatives on the financial situation of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which was caused by Mr. McCourt’s excessive debt and his diversion of club assets for his own personal needs. We have consistently communicated to Mr. McCourt that any potential solution to his problems that contemplates mortgaging the future of the Dodgers franchise to the long-term detriment of the club, its loyal fans and the game of Baseball would not be acceptable.

“My goal from the outset has been to ensure that the Dodgers are being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future for their millions of fans. To date, the ideas and proposals that I have been asked to consider have not been consistent with the best interests of Baseball. The action taken today by Mr. McCourt does nothing but inflict further harm to this historic franchise.”

Source: Major League Baseball

Maury Brown will be on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles at 2:15pm PT to talk the latest on the Dodgers

MORE NEWS AS IT BECOMES AVAILABLE


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Los Angeles Dodgers File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 27 June 2011 08:39

THIS IS BREAKING NEWS…

After months of being able to cobble together payroll for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Frank McCourt’s well has run dry. Unable to meet end-of-month payroll, and MLB on the verge of seizing the club, McCourt has filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The filing was done in response to Major League Baseball rejecting a multi-billion dollar television contract extension with FOX. The league rejected the deal that had $385 million in up-front money in the deal as over $170 million of it was going to be designated to legal fees and settlement of Frank McCourt's divorce from his estranged wife, Jamie.

The document (READ IT HERE), shows that the Dodgers are worth between $500,000 to $1 billion with liabilities only shown to be between $0 and $50,000.

Of the 40 unsecured creditors of the Dodgers listed, 28 are players.

The top 5 players shown to be owed compensation are:

  • Manny Ramirez: $20,992,086
  • Andruw Jones: $11,075,000
  • Hiroke Kuroda: $4,483,516
  • Rafeal Furcal: $3,752,275
  • Ted Lily: $3,423,077

It’s not just players that are showed to be creditors of the Dodgers. The White Sox are owed $3.5 million, Levy Restaurants are shown to be owed $588,322 in “trade debt”, Continental Airlines ($339,403 in trade debt), Bank of America is owed $316,243 in credit card debt, and in one of more embarrassing matters, Vin Scully is showed to be owed $152,778.

All of the Dodger shell companies are listed in the filing. They are, Los Angeles Dodgers Holding Company, LA Holdco LLC, LA Partners LLC, The McCourt-Broderick Limited Partnership, and the McCourt Company, Inc.

The Dodgers will mark the third club in five years to be placed into bankruptcy. Recently the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs also placed themselves into voluntary bankruptcy protection.


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Mark Cuban Interested in Purchasing the "Mess" that is the Dodgers PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 00:00

Mark CubanMark Cuban said on TMZ today that he has an interest in purchasing the Dodgers, but said, the clubs "such a mess," and really isn’t worth the investment.

Cuban said that if the club came up for sale that, "If they're fixable and the deal is right, then I'm very interested."

The key is “fixable” and “deal is right”.

Cuban may spend money, but it isn’t done foolishly. In fact, Cuban was keenly aware of the value that he saw the Texas Rangers were worth, and conceded to the group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan when they bid over that figure last year when the club was up for auction.

In other words, Cuban isn’t likely interested to take on an endeavor dripping with massive debt. He also isn’t likely to be interested unless the whole enchilada – Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, parking revenues, and land around the ballpark – are in the mix. With the way Frank McCourt broke off assets of the Dodgers, even if the league wrests control of the Dodgers away from McCourt, he could fight to retain the other pieces. For Cuban (and likely any other investor worth their salt), that won’t make for “deal is right.”

Still, Cuban’s stock has certainly risen after the Mavericks won the NBA Championship. As one MLB club exec said to me, “He showed a whole lot of class throughout the Game 6 celebration.”


SPECIAL BUSINESS OF SPORTS NETWORK REPORTS:
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Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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MLB Rejects FOX Deal for Dodgers, McCourt Threatens Legal Actions PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 20 June 2011 19:46

It came as no surprise today that Commissioner Selig rejected the proposed FOX television contract extension with the Dodgers. The deal, which had $385 million in up-front money as part of a $3 billion deal, was tied to a divorce settlement between Frank and Jamie McCourt.

Commissioner Selig released a statement, saying:

“Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I have informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today in a detailed letter that I cannot approve the club’s proposed transaction with FOX. This decision was reached after a full and careful consideration of the terms of the proposed transaction and the club’s current circumstances. It is my conclusion that this proposed transaction with FOX would not be in the best interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise, the game of Baseball and the millions of loyal fans of this historic club.

“Mr. McCourt has been provided with an expansive analysis of my reasons for rejecting this proposed transaction. Critically, the transaction is structured to facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt. Given the magnitude of the transaction, such a diversion of assets would have the effect of mortgaging the future of the franchise to the long-term detriment of the club and its fans.

“As I have said before, we owe it to the legion of loyal Dodger fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future. This transaction would not accomplish these goals.”

In a sign that Frank McCourt will most assuredly be suing MLB in order to allow the deal to go through, the Dodgers released a statement through McCourt’s lawyer, Steve Susman of the law firm Susman Godfrey:

“We are extremely disappointed with the Commissioner’s rejection of the proposed FOX transaction which would inject $235 million into the Los Angeles Dodgers.  As Commissioner Selig well knows, this transaction would make the Dodgers financially secure for the long term and one of the best capitalized teams in Major League Baseball.

“For  weeks Major League Baseball  has consistently made public pronouncements asserting that Jamie McCourt’s agreement of the Fox transaction also was  needed; that the Court adjudicating the McCourt divorce grant its approval of the transaction; and the Dodger organization provide all data requested by Major League Baseball to satisfy the so-called investigation ordered by  Commissioner Selig last April – the latter also being the excuse he gave at that time  for delaying his approval of the proposed FOX transaction.

“All the requirements for the Commissioner to approve the FOX transaction were put in place by last Friday: Frank and Jamie McCourt entered into an agreement based on the proposed transaction; the Court ordered, among other things, that the FOX transaction is “in the best interest of the Los Angeles Dodgers and should be consummated immediately;”and all information requested by Major League Baseball under its so-called investigation has been provided by the Dodgers.

“Commissioner Selig’s letter of rejection is not only a disappointment, but worse, is potentially destructive to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Major League Baseball.  Accordingly, we plan to explore vigorously our options and remedies with respect to Commissioner Selig’s rejection of the proposed FOX transaction and our commitment to protect the long-term best interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers.”

The reason for the rejection lies within the Susman response: just $235 million of the $385 million in money fronted would go to the Dodgers. As highlighted in the proposed divorce settlement between Jamie and Frank McCourt reached last Friday that was contingent on the approval of the FOX extension.

In reading the settlement terms, out of that infusion of cash in the rejected FOX extension , each party would have received $5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs… each party would have received $5 million to use has he or she desires. From there, the approx. $235 million would have gone to the Dodgers, but the caveat was that it would have included repayment back to Frank to advance the Dodgers in 2011, a sum that was not to exceed $23.5 million. An additional $80 million was to be used to pay down indebtedness, and the remaining amount of approx. $50 million would be put into an account subject to McCourt’s orders.

As we wrote last week (see Divorce Settlement Shows Frank McCourt is Rearranging Deckchairs on the Titanic with the Dodgers):

Frank, you’re on the edge. The only thing saving you from losing the Dodgers is the FOX deal. There seems little reason for the league to approve it. It’s clearly needed to deal with a personal matter, not improve attendance at the ballpark or the team on the field.

Frank, you’re rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic now to meet payroll each month. There’s little hope MLB will be willing to let you do so with the FOX television extension.

That was then, and here we are now. On August 4, unless McCourt were to somehow wrangle the TV deal away from MLB, Judge Scott Gordon will likely order the Dodgers sold and the proceeds split between Frank and Jamie. Before then, it’s also likely Frank will be unable to make payroll (although he has somehow been able to reach payroll each of the last 2 months by taking cash advances on sponsorship deals. Eventually, McCourt will be bled dry, and MLB will seize the club.

As far as the chances of Frank winning in court by suing Commissioner Selig, consider this portion from MLB’s Constitution (bolding, author):

The Major League Clubs recognize that it is in the best interests of Baseball that all actions taken by the Commissioner under the authority of this Constitution, including, without limitation, Article II and this Article VI, be accepted and complied with by the Clubs, and that the Clubs not otherwise engage in any form of litigation between or among themselves or with any Major League Baseball entity, but resolve their differences pursuant to the provisions of this Constitution. In furtherance thereof, the Clubs (on their own behalf and including, without limitation, on behalf of their owners, officers, directors and employees) severally agree to be finally and unappealably bound by actions of the Commissioner and all other actions, decisions or interpretations taken or reached pursuant to the provisions of this Constitution and severally waive such right of recourse to the courts as would otherwise have existed in their favor.

To add to the passage in the ML Constitution there's this: Tom Hicks had a TV extension with FOX rejected by the league when the Rangers were falling into bankruptcy. The position of the league was the same: using money to improve the ballpark, or pour into player payroll is acceptable. Allowing money to come in via an extension to deal with personal issues of debt, is not. Frank McCourt, you aren't the first to be told no.


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