SBD/August 25, 2011/Franchises

Dodgers Withdraw Application To Hire Firm To Help Sell Cable Rights

Unclear if Dodgers will proceed with plans to sell cable TV rights

The Dodgers have made an abrupt change of course in the potential marketing of their long-term cable TV rights, withdrawing yesterday an application to hire law firm Covington & Burling to help shop the rights they had just made on Tuesday. The club had asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to hire the firm, which has extensive experience in negotiating sports TV rights. But a notice of withdrawal of the request was filed late yesterday without prejudice. The Dodgers declined comment on the shift (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). In L.A., Bill Shaikin cited a source as saying that the application "was most likely withdrawn because of a potential omission regarding a conflict of interest issue." Thomas Salerno, the lead attorney for the Coyotes during the NHL club's bankruptcy case, said, "It just seems odd." Dodgers spokesperson Lyndsey Estin "would not say whether the Dodgers would proceed with the plan to sell the team's cable rights" (LATIMES.com, 8/24).

THE FINAL STRAW: SI's Lee Jenkins writes the beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day "was a symbol of the Dodgers' deterioration." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig told confidants the Stow beating was "the final straw" for Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt. Two weeks after the incident, Selig "dispatched a six-man task force" to L.A., led by MLB Exec VP/Administration & CIO John McHale Jr., to "evaluate stadium security." Jenkins notes McCourt's divorce from his ex-wife, Jamie, "was thought to be the moment the franchise hit bottom." The divorce "had led to dramatic cuts in team payroll and spending for players abroad, a market the franchise once owned," and the "question became whether it also resulted in a deterioration of the stadium atmosphere that culminated" with Stow's assault. L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said, "What happened (to Stow) was the direct result of a culture McCourt allowed to exist in and out of the stadium. It was barbaric." After the beating, Giants President & COO Larry Baer "tried to contact his equivalent with the Dodgers, but because of heavy turnover in the L.A. front office he did not know whom to call." Baer ended up "face-to-face with McCourt at Dodger Stadium the day after the opener, and told him that he did not feel comfortable encouraging Giants fans to wear their colors to games in L.A." But the Dodgers owner "told Baer everything was fine." Baer recalls, "That was unnerving." Still, Jenkins notes the Dodgers' reaction to the beating, "while not as swift as many would have liked, turned out to be forceful." The LAPD said that "no violent crimes have been reported" at Dodger Stadium since Opening Day. However, there are "far fewer people at the games." The Dodgers led MLB in attendance in '09, finished third last year and have fallen to 10th this season. It is "hard to say whether fans were put off by the Stow beating or by the security lockdown that followed -- or by how poorly the team, only two seasons removed from a second consecutive NLCS appearance, has performed." Padres P Heath Bell said, "You go to games there and everyone is so mad at the owner they won't show up. It's heartbreaking" (SI, 8/29 issue).

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