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Divorce Settlement Shows Frank McCourt is Rearranging Deckchairs on the Titanic with the Dodgers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 17 June 2011 14:39

Dodger Divorce

Frank McCourt is in one heck of a bind. A man, now living hand to mouth (or, at least as “hand to mouth” as one that owns an MLB club can), is grasping for anything solid to ground himself to, only to find his islands of safety forever shrinking. Forever coming fewer in-between.

I said it early today, but it’s worth the visual: I envision Frank McCourt center ring of the circus. He's juggling 5 or 6 items at once, while the ringmaster releases alligators into ring.

A better analogy might be this: Frank McCourt is rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

Early this morning word started trickling in that a divorce settlement had been reached between Frank and his estranged wife, Jamie.

The settlement is tied directly to MLB’s approval of the 17-year, $3 billion television contract extension with FOX. That deal sees $385 million funnel into the Dodgers.

But, there’s a catch.

In reading the settlement terms, out of that infusion, “each party will receive $5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs… each party will receive $5 million to use has he or she desires.” From there, approx. $235 million will go to the Dodgers, but the caveat is that includes repayment back to Frank to advance the Dodgers in 2011, a sum that is not to exceed $23.5 million. An additional $80 million would 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.

“I fully expect MLB to approve the Fox transaction," Frank McCourt said to reporters after the settlement was reached. “MLB has taken the position that before they approve [the deal], they wanted to see a settlement of the divorce, approval from Jamie [on the deal] or an order from the judge. They asked for one of the three, and we've given them all three today.”

In reading the terms of the settlement, one would be hard pressed to understand why MLB would approve the deal.

Look at the Rangers television extension that was approved and you make sense of the criteria for passing or failing. In that instance, the up-front money in the deal with FOX went to try and retain Cliff Lee, sign Adrian Beltre, and make capital improvements to Rangers Ballpark. For McCourt, no matter how to try and frame it, money that should be going to the Dodgers funnels into the divorce. Whether money from the TV deal goes into the Dodgers, and other funds go to Frank or visa-versa, it’s a matter of semantics.

And here’s another thing: Judge Scott Gordon still has yet to rule on whether Jamie is co-owner of the Dodgers as part of California’s community property laws. That will occur Aug 4th. So, even if MLB were to approve the FOX deal, the issue of clear ownership is still muddy.

If MLB does not approve the FOX deal, then there’s little hope for McCourt holding onto the Dodgers. He could file for bankruptcy, or try to sell the Dodgers while holding onto Dodger Stadium and its surrounding property, but once again…. It’s rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

But, if Frank were to somehow retain the Dodgers as sole owner, Jamie receives $100 million (non-taxable). Pursuant to the FOX deal, Jamie would receive $5 million at the time of the potentially approved TV extension, $50 million would be paid within 10 days after the court ruling, and the remaining $45 million would be paid off within 24 months.

Now, go back and read how the FOX television money is setup. Notice that there’s $50 million “put into an account subject to McCourt’s orders.”

In the midst of all of this, while Frank is paying off Jamie, she continues to receive $650,000 per month until the first $55 million is paid off, and $325,000 per month after until the remaining balance on the $100 million is paid off.

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.

Select READ MORE to see the divorce settlement document in PDF

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Frank and Jamie McCourt Reach Divorce Settlement PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 17 June 2011 10:13


UPDATE: Read Divorce Settlement Shows Frank McCourt is Rearranging Deckchairs on the Titanic with the Dodgers

After the judge granted the sides an extension yesterday, current Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his estranged wife Jamie have reached a divorce settlement. That deal will most certainly include the Dodgers, which Jamie has pushed to have Frank sell.

With California being a community property state, the judge in the divorce proceedings had ruled that Jamie was entitled to ownership of the Dodgers.

That’s been the sticking point, as Judge Scott Gordon gave the two till 8:30am this morning to reach a settlement. Co-ownership of the club is deemed to be a non-starter, and so the only option available will be for the Dodgers to be sold and the proceeds from the sale would be split.

The question will be, how much of the Dodgers might be put up for sale? It's possible that there could be an attempt to hold on to certain aspects of the organization, including Dodger Stadium or the land surrounding it.

Another aspect is to settle using money from the FOX television deal that McCourt has been trying to broker, but that MLB has voided, a very long shot in that MLB would be expecting money from the deal to go back into the Dodgers, not used as part of a divorce settlement.

MORE DETAILS AS THEY BECOME AVAILABLE


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McCourt Dodges a Bullet, Will Make May 31 Dodgers Payroll PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 27 May 2011 22:54

Frank McCourtFrank McCourt lives to see another month as owner...

According to sources at Major League Baseball, Frank McCourt will meet the end-of-May payroll payment for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

McCourt has been in danger of MLB seizing the club, should he not have been able to make payroll, but according to sources, and confirmed by Peter Gammons via Twitter, he is taking future payments now to allow the May 31 payment to be met.

McCourt had a deal with FOX in place that would have seen $285 million in upfront money as part of a $3 billion contract extension. Major League Baseball vetoed the deal, but has said it is not denied, pending an investigation into the club’s finances.

Whether McCourt will be able to make payroll in this fashion each and every month would seem tenuous. The Dodgers rank 9th in attendance drawing 36,360 over 25 games compared to 43,712 last year at the same time over 23 games, a decrease of 20 percent.


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Mets Enter Exclusive Agreement to Sell Minority Interest to David Einhorn for $200M PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 26 May 2011 11:46
David Einhorn
Could this eventually be the young ownership face of the New York Mets?
David Einhorn has entered an exclusive agreement to purchase 49% of the
club for $200 million

The New York Mets today announced that David Einhorn has been selected as the team's preferred partner and that the Mets and Mr. Einhorn have entered into exclusive negotiations with respect to a minority, non-operating investment in the team. The $200 million personal investment by Mr. Einhorn is subject to the negotiation of a mutually acceptable definitive agreement for the transaction, as well as required approvals by Major League Baseball. According to multiple reports, Einhorn will be purchasing less than 49 percent of the Mets, just below controlling interest. Reports as to the amount being purchased have flucuated from 25 to 33 percent, possibly more. The parties expect to enter into definitive agreements by late June.

"We are very excited about David joining our ownership group for several reasons," said Fred Wilpon, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, New York Mets. "David's investment immediately improves the franchise's financial position. Equally important, David's intelligence, integrity and success in both business and civic affairs provides us with another perspective in evaluating what is best for this organization and our fans, and we welcome his input. In partnership with David, we look forward to achieving our ultimate goal of again becoming World Series champions."

Mr. Einhorn stated, "Having an opportunity to become part of the Mets franchise is exciting beyond my wildest childhood dreams. I spent my first seven years living in New Jersey and rooting for the Mets. In 1975, I even dressed in a homemade jersey as a Met for Halloween. I have been a baseball fan for my entire life and have enjoyed teaching the game as the coach of my daughter's little league team. I look forward to partnering with the Wilpon and Katz families through the good seasons, the tough seasons and especially the championship seasons."

Mr. Einhorn is President of Greenlight Capital, Inc., a private investment firm which he co-founded in January 1996, and is Chairman of the Board of Greenlight Capital Re, Ltd. Along with his wife, Mr. Einhorn formed the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, whose mission is to help people get along better. He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and the Robin Hood Foundation.

At $200 million, the investment by Einhorn would come to approx. one-half the current $400 million value that Forbes recently placed on the club if the controlling interest were 49 percent, after Fred Wilpon said to Sports Illustrated that the Mets would lose $70 million this year, or $10 million more than the club projected at the beginning of the season. There is no word on whether Einhorn has any clauses in the agreement by which he would have access to purchasing the controlling interest in the club.

Einhorn was quickly approached after Stephen Cohen backed out of the minority purchase. Cohen is under possible investigation for insider trading.

Sterling Equities, who own the Mets, have been under exceptional legal pressure due to the Bernie Madoof ponzi scandal. Irving Pichard, the trustee for the Madoff victims, is seeking $1 billion due to Sterling’s association with Madoff. Sterling has countered that they are another victim of the largest ponzi scheme in US history.


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New York Mets Value Continues to Drop, Now $700 Million PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 25 May 2011 08:11

MetsMuch has been made of Fred Wilpon’s unflattering comments about stars Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright in the most recent edition of The New Yorker, but it’s the club bleeding red ink that is more concerning.

Wilpon is quoted in the current issue of Sports Illustrated as saying the Mets are "bleeding cash" and could lose up to $70 million this year.

That’s $10 million more than the club initially forecasted they lose this season. Attendance is killing the club that is seeing an average of 28,565 over 21 games and rank them just 13 out of the 30 clubs in MLB.

The loses are adding to the drop in the club’s overall valuation. Forbes valued the club a $747 million in its most recent listing, but today, Mike Ozanian with the publication adjusted that figure now estimates the value of the franchise to be closer to $700 million.

When you throw in hedge-fund mogul Steve Cohen backing out of a reported $200 million minority purchase of the club (something that we said was actually beneficial), it does put more pressure on the Wilpons and Saul Katz to get cash in the door, fast.

At what point, if any, does all this cause Sterling Equities to buckle and sell majority stake? The ownership will say that’s not going to happen, but we’re beginning to wonder. Either the club needs to get a minority owner in yesterday (which will assuredly be below Cohen’s offer), or quite building ill-will with the fans (comments about the players). Either way, if the team were to somehow rally and move up in the standings, it’s going to be a losing year for the Mets.


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Former Reds COO, John Allen to Assist Tom Schieffer on Dodgers Oversight PDF Print E-mail
MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 16 May 2011 13:43

DodgersTom Schieffer, who was appointed Monitor of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise by Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig, has selected John Allen, the former Chief Operating Officer of the Cincinnati Reds, as his assistant in the oversight of the day-to-day operations, business and finances of the Club and its related entities.

Allen joined the Reds in 1995 as controller and was named managing executive of the franchise in 1996.  Serving as the Club’s COO from 1999 through the 2007 season, Allen was responsible for all business and ballpark operations of the organization.  Allen was involved in all aspects of the development and construction of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati prior to its 2003 opening.  Before joining the Reds, the Kansas native worked for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers of the International League, serving as director of business operations for five years.

Schieffer said: “I am pleased that John Allen is coming on board to assist in the monitoring of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise.  As a longtime baseball executive, John provides a wealth of acumen that will be very beneficial as we continue forward in this process to help the Dodgers.”

Source: Major League Baseball


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Astros to Announce Sales Agreement to Jim Crane Today PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 16 May 2011 10:23

AstrosUPDATE: The Astros have called a 2pm CT press conference to announce the sales agreement between McLane and Crain


The long process of selling the Houston Astros could be coming to a close.

Multiple sources have said that a sales agreement between current owner Drayton McLane and Houston businessman Jim Crane could be announced as early as today. The Astros have not commented on the sale. The reported sale price is $680 million. Drayton McLane purchased the Astros for $117 million in 1992. Accounting for inflation, in today’s dollars that would be worth approx $180 million. He will also receive $95 million in monies associated to the new regional sports network being started with the Houston Rockets.
If a sales agreement is reached, final approval on the sale transfer would need to come from a vote of 75 percent of the league's 30 owners.

More details as they become available


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Astros Sale Reportedly Down to Dotting I's and Crossing T's PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 10:22

AstrosAccording to a report by Bob Allen of KTRK, the ABC affiliate in Houston, the sale of the Astros from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane is all but complete. According to the report, all that is left is “dotting of I’s  and crossing of T’s and the team will be sold.”

The reported sale price is approx. $680 million. Forbes most recent valuation ranking had the Astros 14th out of the 30 clubs at $474 million.

The sale price is likely higher due to a new regional sports network being started by the Astros and NBA Rockets. And while the price was inflated through the auction process, the sale of the Texas Rangers in August of last year for $593 million likely factored into the increased sale price for the Astros.

For those thinking that the deal is imminent due to the MLB owners meetings taking place this week, think again. According to a league source, there is nothing on the agenda for the meetings that are tied to the Astros sale.

More details as they become available.


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Mets Minority Sale Expected to Happen By End of May PDF Print E-mail
MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 05 May 2011 08:04

MetsAccording to multiple sources, a minority stake in the New York Mets is expected to be sold by the end of May. The percentage could be as low as 20 percent, but could rise to as much as 49 percent. The club hopes to net $200 million; possibly more.

According to the New York Daily News, four groups are believed to be still in the running for the minority stake in the Mets, but the financial sources say a group led by hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen, the founder of SAC Capital Advisors, appears to be the leader, followed by a group led by Skybridge Capital managing partner Anthony Scaramucci and James McCann, the founder of 1-800-Flowers.com.

The Mets would not comment on the bidders.

"Contrary to media speculation, during the course of our ongoing negotiations for a sale of a minority interest in the New York Mets, we continue to have conversations with a number of interested parties," the team said in a statement.

"Since these conversations are confidential, we will neither confirm nor deny the identity of any of the possible partners nor the details of any potential deal."

Questions swirl as to how much control any investors might have in the decision-making process with the Mets. According to the Daily News, a  source familiar with the sale process said the Wilpons are willing to give potential partners input into big-cost decisions, such free-agent signings, but want to maintain ultimate control of the day-to-day operations of the club.

The Mets have two key obligations that the proceeds from the sale would address immediately. To cover operating expenses last fall, the club borrowed $25 million from league last fall. On top of league loan, a $20 million stadium debt obligation on Citi Field is due at the end of June.

Sterling Equities, which owns the club and sees majority owners Chairman and chief executive officer Fred Wilpon, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and president Saul Katz, have been rocked by a lawsuit by Irving Pichard, the trustee representing the victims of the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme. Sterling invested heavily with Madoff, and Pichard contends that the Mets ownership group profited from those investments with Madoff. Last year Pichard was seeking $1 billion to settle the claims, but Sterling has chose to fight the claims.


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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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Dodgers Lack Funds to Make Payroll Through End of May PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 08:04

Frank McCourtUnless Frank McCourt is able to receive a loan, the Los Angeles Dodger will be unable to meet payroll obligations through the end of the month, according to a report in the LA Times.

McCourt was able to secure a $30 million loan from Fox in late April, but those funds secured payroll only through the beginning of May.  Payments due at the end of the month are the ones that are in jeopardy.

Major League Baseball vetoed a reported 17-year, television rights extension with Fox for the Dodgers that is worth more than $3 billion. McCourt has said that he would then have the ability to infuse $285 million in upfront equity straight into the club to meet payroll with the deal, but the league has said that until newly appointed trustee Tom Schieffer is done investigating the team finances, that deal is on hold.

"It will be a thorough investigation," Schieffer said to the LA Times. "I would anticipate it would be longer than two weeks."

Should McCourt be unable to make payment in May, the league could have the option to seize the club under the “best interests of baseball” powers that Commissioner Selig has.  Could McCourt get another loan from Fox? According to the report, a source said that would be "very unlikely."


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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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