MLB Will Let McCourt Solicit Separate Offers For Dodgers, TV Rights
Under a deal "hammered out during two weeks of intense negotiations last month, MLB won't oppose" Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt and his advisers' attempts to "solicit separate bids for the team and the future media rights to its games," according to sources cited by Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The structure of the auction "was the biggest of several" concessions MLB made to get McCourt to agree to sell the team. Sources said that the concessions were "designed to allow Mr. McCourt to reap as much money as possible from the sale of the team." The auction plan, which the parties "are expected to submit to the bankruptcy court in coming days, is likely to attract fierce opposition from News Corp.'s Fox unit, whose Prime Ticket regional sports network owns the local-media rights to the Dodgers" through '13. In the auction, McCourt and his advisers at Blackstone Group, which is managing the Dodgers sale, "will solicit separate bids for the team and its media rights, and then will try to arrange a partnership between the highest bidders for each before a final deal is struck." But only the winning bidder for the team ultimately "would have the right to execute a new media-rights deal." The bidders also can elect to "submit a combined offer for both the team and its media rights." The goal is to "attract the widest range of bidders possible" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/8).
ON THE BLOCK: In L.A., Steve Dilbeck reports Blackstone Group "already has started soliciting prospective bidders." The sale price is "expected to hit $1 billion or more, with the Dodgers and their stadium included in the deal." Pursuant to the agreement, McCourt and the new owner "would negotiate whether the parking lots should be leased from McCourt or purchased outright." The agreement "targets April 1, 2012, as a sale deadline." The Dodgers' current TV contract states that Fox "holds exclusive negotiating rights through Nov. 30, 2012." McCourt previously "asked the court to void that provision -- the court has not ruled -- but Fox said it does not intend to yield." Fox said in a statement, "We fully support a change in ownership of the Dodgers. In that process, Fox has rights that cannot be violated, as MLB has stated. Those rights were negotiated, paid for, and approved by MLB. We will take all necessary steps to aggressively protect and defend those rights, as our still-pending lawsuit suggests" (LATIMES.com, 11/8).