Attorneys for Major League Baseball asked a Delaware bankruptcy judge on Friday to clear the way for a sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers, saying team owner Frank McCourt is driving the team to destruction.
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Attorneys for the league argued in a court filing that McCourt is using the team’s Chapter 11 case to try to resolve his own personal financial problems. They said he has methodically stripped the team of its revenue sources and is now seeking to auction off the team’s television rights without league approval, which could lead to its expulsion from the league and leave it in economic ruin.
League attorneys declared the proposed TV rights sale ”dead on arrival.”
”Indeed, no one will pay the debtors to broadcast Dodgers games if the club is not part of Major League Baseball,” attorneys for Commissioner Bud Selig wrote. ”Consequently, the debtor’s path in this case is a dead end or worse.”
League attorneys argue that the only path for a quick and successful emergence from bankruptcy is a sale of the team. They said such a sale would benefit the team, the league, fans and McCourt himself.
”Mr. McCourt will likely receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the surplus, which will be available to solve his personal financial problems and leave him a very wealthy man (without continued harm to the team),” they wrote.
An attorney for the league did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment. The Dodgers issued a statement dismissing the league’s court filing as meritless and riddled with inaccuracies.
”It is another step in the commissioner’s continuing effort to cause the sale of the Dodgers notwithstanding that the Dodgers can and will be successfully reorganized as outlined in the recently filed media rights marketing motion,” the statement read. ”In United States bankruptcy reorganization cases, liquidation is the last resort, not the first option.”
The league’s filing came one week after the Dodgers filed a motion seeking court approval of procedures to auction off the team’s television rights for the 2014 season and beyond.
MLB argues that the proposed sale would breach the Dodgers’ existing contract with Fox Sports, leaving it subject to substantial legal claims, while also providing grounds for termination from the league.
The Dodgers sought bankruptcy protection in June, blaming Selig for refusing to approve a multibillion-dollar TV deal with Fox that McCourt was counting on to keep the troubled franchise afloat.
The league is now arguing that McCourt is trying to circumvent its authority, which could leave the judge in the position of determining whether the federal bankruptcy code trumps Major League Baseball’s constitution.
”Bankruptcy is not a vehicle for rewriting the rules of sports leagues like Major League Baseball,” league attorneys argued in Friday’s court filing.
A hearing on the Dodgers’ motion seeking approval of a television rights auction process and the league’s opposing motion seeking a sale of the team is tentatively set for Oct. 12.