SBD/May 2, 2011/Franchises

McCourt Has First Meeting With Schieffer, Apologizes To Dodgers Fans

McCourt still considers MLB's actions to be a "seizure" of Dodgers
Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt on Friday "had his first meeting" with Tom Schieffer, who was appointed by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to monitor the team's operations, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Schieffer also met with Ned Colletti, then was accompanied by the Dodgers GM and MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations Joe Torre "to brief Dodgers players and staff in the clubhouse about Selig's decision to oversee all aspects of the business and day-to-day operations of the club because of financial concerns." After meeting with Schieffer, McCourt "held a series of media interviews to essentially apologize to fans for the drama of the past 18 months." McCourt said, "One thing I want to say -- I'm sorry. I apologize that my personal life spilled over and affected them. I'm sorry about certain lifestyle decisions I made. I'm sorry if I've been the cause of embarrassment for the community, for the team, for the fans. ... I recognized that by not talking about it, some fans may think if I wasn't defending myself, I don't care, or I'm arrogant or weak or I don't care about the fans. Nothing could be further from the truth." McCourt reiterated he still considers MLB's action to be a "seizure" of the Dodgers, but Schieffer disagreed. Schieffer: "We're trying to ensure that the difficulties encountered here don't increase and have a bigger impact on the future of the franchise. A seizure is different than what is going on here" (MLB.com, 4/29). McCourt described Friday's conversations "as 'cordial,' but he said that, so far, he still isn't really clear on exactly what Schieffer's role will be." McCourt: "There was discussion about his intentions. I would say his intentions seemed fine, but they weren't necessarily square with some of the instructions we got" (ESPNLA.com, 4/30).

MCCOURT STILL INVOLVED: Schieffer on Friday revealed that McCourt "still has the ability to approve or veto trades." Schieffer said that he explained to Colletti that he "should follow the same chain of command he always has, and operate within the same budget he was given by McCourt at the beginning of the year." ESPN L.A.'s Ramona Shelburne noted under the "conditions imposed by Selig's decision, Schieffer must approve any transaction over $5,000, so he ultimately holds the final word in every major decision the club makes." Still, he "made it clear that McCourt still has a voice in team decisions." Schieffer noted that if McCourt vetoes a trade, Colletti should not then go to Schieffer for his input. Schieffer: "He doesn't go to me. It's 'No.' What I'm saying is that everybody has to sign off on it, within the organization, and then they come to me if it's outside the budget. If it's inside the budget, it's inside the budget and they go forward" (ESPNLA.com, 4/29).

IN GOOD HANDS: In L.A., Phil Willon profiled Schieffer under the header, "Thomas Schieffer Brings Boyhood Devotion To Baseball To His Job As Dodgers Overseer." Schieffer said, "You have to protect the institution, and that's the thing you always have to keep in mind. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the great sports franchises in the world. … I think everybody recognizes that the Dodgers need to be a healthy franchise for baseball as a whole to be a healthy sport." Describing his own management style, Schieffer "offered what could be a subtle warning to McCourt." He said, "If people think you're being honest with them, they'll cut you a lot of slack. If they think you're going to try to pull one over on them, they don't like that" (L.A. TIMES, 5/1). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote Schieffer is, "by all accounts, someone willing to dig in, to work with both hands, to find solutions -- but at the same time, he treats employees with enough respect to let them do their jobs." He is known to be a "tough negotiator, someone who will make budgetary decisions and stick to them." A baseball exec said, "He's the perfect person to deal with McCourt, because he's just not going to get pushed around. If McCourt tries to go around him, or do something around the edges, Tom is not going to let them happen" (ESPN.com, 5/1).

HOW IT AFFECTS MLB: Dodgers Vice Chair Steve Soboroff on Friday revealed that owners of the other 29 MLB teams "could be stuck paying the Dodgers' bills very soon." In L.A., Bill Shaikin reported now that MLB has "taken control of the team's finances, McCourt could run out of cash, which could require the other owners to finance the May payroll." No other owner has "spoken out publicly against Selig, a noted consensus-builder, regarding his decision to wrest financial control of the Dodgers from McCourt." One owner said, "I can't think of one owner that is going to say Bud is wrong and Frank is right" (L.A. TIMES, 4/30). In Chicago, Phil Rogers reported around MLB's offices in N.Y., "some people are having a hard time not laughing about McCourt's claim" that Selig is avoiding him. MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR Rob Manfred: "There is no owner who during the period 2004-11, the period Frank has been in the game, who has consumed more of the commissioner's time, more of the commissioner's office's time, than Frank McCourt." An MLB source said, "It has been the issue of the week every week. He's always gone to the commissioner with things that he needs -- rules to bend, paths to pave. It's always something with the guy. For him to say, 'All I want is a meeting with Selig,' is a little wacky" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/1).

Frank (l) and Jamie could be hit with large
tax bill if MLB forces sale of Dodgers
IN THE LOSS COLUMN
: The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin noted now that MLB has appointed a trustee to run the Dodgers, McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie, "have not only lost control of the team but could lose financially as well." With a divorce settlement, Frank McCourt "could have kept control of the Dodgers, and the chance to pass the team along to his four sons." He also could have "reaped the benefits of a fat new television contract and, perhaps, development in the Dodger Stadium parking lot." Furthermore, Jamie McCourt "could have accepted" what probably "would have been a large, tax-free payout." But now they "face the prospect that Selig could steer the team toward a franchise sale, and with it what could be a huge tax bill for the McCourts." Sources indicated that the "most recent settlement talks contemplated a payout in the range of $200 million to Jamie McCourt" (L.A. TIMES, 5/1).
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