SBD/November 4, 2011/Franchises

Frank McCourt Required To Pay Ex-Wife $131M As Part Of Divorce Settlement

In settlement, Jamie McCourt will keep four homes, while her ex-husband will keep two
Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt's divorce settlement was "made official Thursday," and the binding agreement indicates that McCourt "must pay his former wife and ex-team CEO Jamie McCourt $131 million by the end of April," according to Greg Risling of the AP. The agreement "calls for the lump sum to be paid in cash and would be tax-free." If McCourt "comes up with the money before April 30, 2012, $1 million per month will be shaved from his tab" (AP, 11/3). Under the settlement agreement, McCourt also "surrendered his claim to what had been his Los Angeles homes." Jamie McCourt "kept four homes -- two in Malibu, one in Holmby Hills and one in Vail, Colo." McCourt "kept two homes, both in Massachusetts." (LATIMES.com, 11/3). The NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL's Amanda Bronstad reported the sale of the Dodgers coupled with McCourt's divorce settlement "could help winnow any damages in a malpractice claim" by McCourt against Bingham McCutchen, the law firm that "drafted an invalid marital agreement at the heart of his divorce" (NLJ.com, 11/2). Meanwhile, Tom Girardi, the attorney representing Giants fan Bryan Stow's family in its lawsuit against McCourt and the Dodgers following the Opening Day beating outside Dodger Stadium, Thursday said he has approached MLB about working out a "reasonable settlement" for the case now that McCourt has agreed to sell the team. ESPN L.A.'s Ramona Shelburne noted the Stow family "is currently McCourt's largest unsecured creditor." Girardi has previously estimated that "damages in the case could be as much as $50 million." That debt "would be assumed by whomever buys the team from McCourt in the auction, if it isn't settled in advance" (ESPNLA.com, 11/3).

WHO'S GOT NEXT? ESPN L.A.'s Shelburne notes White Sox Special Assistant to the Chair Dennis Gilbert is the "insiders' pick to buy the team because of his high standing in baseball circles and close ties to" MLB Commissioner Bud Selig through White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf (ESPNLA.com, 11/4). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi reports former Dodgers Exec VP & GM Fred Claire has "joined an investment group attempting to buy the Dodgers." But Claire said Thursday that the group is "still seeking the primary financial backer" (ESPNLA.com, 11/4). Claire acknowledged that "without very wealthy investors, his bid will not go anywhere." He said, "We’re out there giving our story and letting people know what we believe. We need someone with the lead role, as principal, with the financial wherewithal" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/4). In L.A., T.J. Simers writes former Dodgers Owner Peter O'Malley, who has expressed interest in once again owning the team, is the "wrong person to replace" McCourt. O'Malley "will be the sentimental choice, maybe the most popular one, to make folks feel good again about the Dodgers, but only by those struck by amnesia." The Dodgers were "irrelevant under O'Malley his last nine years on the job, as horrible a thing as anyone can say about a sports team" (L.A. TIMES, 11/4). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "If baseball wanted Mark Cuban in their little country club, he’d already be in their little country club, because he’s knocking on the door" ("Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 11/3). In L.A., Rick Orlov reports the public "would be allowed to purchase shares in the Dodgers and other professional sports teams under federal legislation introduced Thursday" by U.S. Reps. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). But Hahn acknowledged that even "if the bill were to pass, it probably wouldn't be in place in time to affect the expected bankruptcy auction of the Dodgers" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/4). An L.A. DAILY NEWS editorial states, "After committing an error by accepting McCourt in 2004, baseball should do L.A. a favor by finding us an owner with local roots, baseball savvy and unquestionable financial means" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/4).

BROADCAST RIGHTS: News Corp. President, COO & Deputy Chair Chase Carey believes his company will be able to "navigate Southern California reasonably well," even without buying the Dodgers. But CABLEFAX DAILY reports Fox Sports "must extend the Dodgers rights it controls through next year or face the specter of sapped relevance in the market." FS West and Prime Ticket currently "double-teams SoCal with sports content from teams including the Dodgers," Lakers and USC. But Time Warner Cable "dribbled in to wrest the Lakers rights away and will use them to launch 2 area RSNs." The MSO is "also part of a cable consortium slated to feature 6 RSNs as part of the Pac-12 Nets, which means Fox can kiss goodbye to USC and UCLA, too." At the "very least, there'll be exhaustive financial analysis of the potential lost rev from the departing properties and potential shuttering of 1 net vis a vis the costs associated with the Dodgers rights." Time Warner "remains the wild card." The MSO could "go after the Dodgers rights to further establish its foothold in the L.A. sports scene, thus gaining additional brand equity and serious leverage in carriage negotiations with Fox" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 11/4
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