SBD/April 11, 2012/Franchises

Bankruptcy Court Likely To Approve Sale of Dodgers To Johnson-Guggenheim Group Friday

McCourt and Guggenheim will jointly own Dodger Stadium parking lots
Neither MLB nor Fox Sports "plans to try to stop the sale of the Dodgers, virtually ensuring that the deal will receive court approval Friday," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. MLB and Fox, the Dodgers' two "most formidable combatants in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, expressed relatively minor concerns Tuesday, the deadline for parties to object to the sale." MLB has been "frustrated by what it considers a lack of information" about former Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt's $2.15B sale of the team to Guggenheim Baseball Management, and a separate transaction in which McCourt and Guggenheim "will jointly own the Dodger Stadium parking lots." However, the court "almost certainly would have rejected any MLB objection on those grounds, as the league already had approved Guggenheim as a buyer, and the McCourt entity that currently owns the parking lots is not part of the bankruptcy case" (L.A. TIMES, 4/11). MLB continues to seek about $8M in recovered expenses, primarily legal fees from the case, while Fox is seeking written assurances that Guggenheim has not aligned with Fox's industry rival Time Warner Cable as part of the purchase. Time Warner is not believed to have any role in the deal, but almost certainly will be an active bidder for the club's TV rights when they become available after the '13 season. Both the league and Fox have been strident legal opponents to the Dodgers during the run of the nearly 10-month-old case. But each of their primary grievances has been settled (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

TREAD LIGHTLY: In L.A., T.J. Simers writes under the header, "Frank McCourt's Relationship With Ownership Group Doesn't Sit Well." Simers asks, "What do we know about the Guggenheim investors back in Chicago?" Simers hopes someone from Guggenheim "understands how deeply McCourt offended Dodgers fans." McCourt "misled fans in Los Angeles from the start, and now we get a replacement in Guggenheim who appears to be just as evasive when it comes to explaining its financial wherewithal." Fans are "reading about redactions, lines in documents blacked out, entire sections hidden from view, and lawyers wanting documents sealed from public scrutiny." The last thing a new Dodgers owner "should be doing is leaving open the possibility they are as duplicitous as the previous owner." It seems like Guggenheim and McCourt "are cozier than anyone might have expected when he announced he was selling the team" (L.A. TIMES, 4/11).

SECURITY CHECK: In L.A., Sewell, Blankstein & Rubin in a front-page piece report the fact yesterday's home opener against the Pirates "sold out was noteworthy." Last year the team's "traditionally loyal fan base deserted in droves amid safety concerns, the team's lackluster performance and a sordid divorce case involving McCourt and his wife." The L.A. Police Department "deployed a few hundred officers in a deliberate show of force in and around the stadium" in an effort to avoid any serious incidents. Squads of officers "patrolled the parking lots on foot, horseback and bicycle; scores of uniformed and undercover cops took up posts throughout the stands and near the concession stands where lines for beer grew in the warm afternoon." Police reported 55 arrests, "almost all for minor, alcohol-related offenses -- a drop from the 92 arrests on opening day last year and 132" in '10. Many fans said that they "appreciated the police presence, though some said it was a bit heavy-handed." Most fans said that they "understood why it was needed, but some were disheartened that the seemingly omnipresent police uniforms had created a somewhat oppressive scene" (L.A. TIMES, 4/11). The AP's Robert Jablon reported there were "79 ejections from the sold-out game for rowdiness, drunkenness and other unruly behavior." L.A. Police Officer Bruce Borihanh: "If we'd had this level of enforcement last year we'd probably have more than 345 citations" (AP, 4/10).

A DAY TO CELEBRATE: In L.A., Jill Painter notes yesterday's game marked one of the final days of McCourt's tenure, and "started a new chapter in Dodger history with the Magic Johnson-led Guggenheim ownership group about to take over." The day was "full of hope and promise and new beginnings for Dodger fans." Aside from McCourt "being there, the atmosphere was electric" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/11). Also in L.A., Steve Dilbeck noted Terry Seidler, the daughter of former Dodgers Owner Walter O'Malley, threw out the first pitch before yesterday's game and was accompanied on the field by her brother, Peter O'Malley. He had been "critical of Frank McCourt’s ownership of the Dodgers, and was one of the early bidders seeking to purchase the club during its auction, so it was a nice gesture to invite him back for the first pitch." McCourt was "in attendance, but was in his private suite and not in his box next to the team dugout" (LATIMES.com, 4/10). CBSSPORTS.com's Scott Miller wrote the Dodgers are "no longer feeling entitled to much of anything." How much "damage McCourt did to the franchise will be answered in the coming months." But Miller wrote, "Maybe a city and a ballclub are ready to fall back in love again. Maybe winning 'em back one fan at a time isn't a bad way to go." Dodgers RF Andre Ethier said, "It's fun to be back here at Dodger Stadium playing in front of these fans again. It was the way it felt a couple of years ago." Miller wrote although not everything "was perfect" yesterday, things are "looking up" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/10).
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