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Posts Tagged ‘Frank McCourt’

Recent times have not been kind to Fred Wilpon.

The last five seasons haven’t been very kind to the Mets. Whether on the field or in the board room, the team has been besieged by a myriad of unfortunate circumstances ever since Carlos Beltran was mesmerized by a Adam Wainwright curve ball to end the 2006 NLCS. Not surprisingly, the Mets’ hardship has led to much ridicule, particularly from the less compassionate segment of the Yankees’ fan base. Despite the dark days still ahead, however, there is every reason to think the Mets could still have the last laugh.

In the three years since Bernie Madoff’s massive securities fraud was uncovered, Fred Wilpon has been desperately trying to maintain his hold on the New York Mets. Despite insisting at the time that the scandal would have no impact on his ownership of the team, subsequent events have proven otherwise. Since that time, which, unfortunately for the Wilpons, coincided with poor play on the field and a corresponding decline in revenue, the current ownership group has relied on debt to remain afloat. According to a recent report in the Daily News, those loans are about to come due.

The team is not for sale, not a piece of it, not a part of it. We are not for sale. We have no reason to sell. We have other money. Just because you guys don’t know how much money we have, we have other money outside of this, from diversity.” – Fred Wilpon, quoted by the New York Times, December 17, 2008

Despite Fred Wilpon’s fervent desire to remain as majority owner of the Mets, the prospect of looming debt payments and even further deflated revenue in 2012 could soon force his hand (while creditors, and perhaps even the commissioner, slowly pry loose his fingers). As Frank McCourt has learned with the Dodgers, the weight of debt can become too much of a burden, especially when the alternative is selling out and making a handsome profit.

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After being backed into a corner by Commissioner Bud Selig, Los Angeles Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt lashed out at Major League Baseball by filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. That’s what rats do.

McCourt and Selig have seldom seen eye-to-eye of late.

According to a press release released by the Dodgers, McCourt justified his decision by claiming that Selig’s refusal to approve a tentative media rights deal with FOX Sports was detrimental to the team. “I simply cannot allow the Commissioner to knowingly and intentionally be in a position to expose the Dodgers to financial risk any longer,” McCourt stated. If anything, the reckless owner has proven more than capable of doing that all on his own.

Needless to say, no one around baseball is laughing at the irony expressed by McCourt, but, the bankruptcy filing could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Although the filing’s motivation was likely to stave off an attempt by Selig to officially seize the team, it could eventually leave McCourt without an ally in the process. According to the Los Angeles Times, FOX has hinted that it would not be willing to have its proposed contract with the Dodgers consummated by a court ruling. If true, McCourt could find himself trying to scurry off his own sinking ship. That’s also what rats do.

Although the MLB bylaws seem to give the commissioner power over rouge owners like McCourt, it’s almost a given that enforcement would only come after a long and expensive legal battle. For that reason, baseball would be better off if the bankruptcy court is the entity that requires a sale. Even though that would give Selig and company less control over the next Dodgers’ owner, it would save them from costly litigation, further embarrassment, and the continued destruction of a flagship franchise. In the meantime, the bankruptcy filing does provide the Dodgers with enough liquidity to meet its short-term obligations, including payment of all salaries and benefits as well as funding of day-to-day operations.

As mentioned, the wild card in this latest soap opera is FOX, another irony considering many in Los Angeles believe the Dodgers began losing a grip on the city when it owned the team. To many, FOX and Frank McCourt are almost interchangeable, which is one reason the rumored media rights deal has been met with so much suspicion.

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The McCourts in happier times.

Move aside Barry Bonds. Fred McCourt is one of the most vile, reprehensible men in the history of baseball. At least that seems to be the popular sentiment expressed in the wake of Bud Selig’s decision to wrestle away control of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It’s impossible to deny, not to mention excuse, the abuses that have pervaded McCourt’s tenure as owner of the one baseball’s flagship franchises. It seems likely that the organization and the city of Los Angeles will be much better off under someone else’s guidance, but that reality shouldn’t be exaggerated by fiction. Although McCourt may not be the best option to lead the Dodgers in the future, his past actions weren’t all bad for the franchise.

Before Frank McCourt purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers early in 2004, the team had passed from the longtime stewardship of the O’Malley family to the cold claws of News Corp. Even though there were some early reservations about having an out-of-towner take over the team in a highly levered acquisition, McCourt’s purchase was also seen as rescuing the Dodgers from corporate ownership.

The sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to Frank and Jamie McCourt heralds the beginning of a new era of family ownership for one of the game’s most storied franchises. This transaction meets all of Baseball’s debt service rules and financial requirements in every way. We at Major League Baseball are confident that Mr. McCourt, as a rabid and knowledgeable fan and successful businessman, will devote the time and energy necessary to make the franchise a great success.” – Commissioner Bud Selig, quoted by MLB.com, January 29, 2004

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