As Frank McCourt mounts a legal and financial battle to retain ownership of the Dodgers, Fox has advanced him money to help cover the team’s current operating expenses, according to an individual close to the situation.
The individual, who was not authorized to speak publicly, declined to say how much money had been advanced.
McCourt had no comment, according to his spokesman, Steve Sugerman. Fox spokesman Chris Bellitti and Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney each declined to comment.
It is unclear whether the cash advance indicates the Dodgers are in immediate financial peril, but a sports industry consultant said the timing was curious, given that team expenses are lower out of season than during the season.
The Dodgers had projected revenue of $279 million last year and $287 million this year, according to court documents. Fox owes the Dodgers $35 million for television rights this year, $37 million next year and $39 million in 2013, according to the documents.
Andy Dolich, formerly a top executive with the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Athletics and Memphis Grizzlies, said a cash advance would be unusual — particularly in the off-season, when teams generally do not pay their players.
“It’s a bit odd, because the people and the entities that own these teams usually have the money to operate the team well into the future,” said Dolich, who emphasized that he has not reviewed the Dodgers’ finances or how the McCourt divorce might have affected them.
“Maybe it’s not odd, in terms of what’s going on, but I haven’t heard of a lot of teams that do that.”
McCourt has discussed a new television deal with Fox, one that would extend the company’s rights to broadcast Dodgers games and provide him with the nine-figure sum most likely necessary to settle his divorce case.
However, Commissioner Bud Selig has the right to reject any such deal. McCourt outlined his legal and financial strategy last week in meetings with Selig’s lieutenants, without receiving assurances of support.
“I don’t think it boils down to Frank’s ability to get a cash advance,” said David Carter, director of the USC Sports Business Institute. “The uncomfortable thing for him is that perception is reality.
“Whether it’s rumors that people are lining up to buy the team, or whether he is trying to get partners, any of that dialogue undermines his ability to control and run the team. That includes the perception that Major League Baseball might try to get involved.
“What you’re talking about is a much bigger issue, and that is whether the other owners want to see the Dodgers — the Dodger brand — in Frank’s hands.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon has certified as final the ruling in which he threw out a marital property agreement that would have provided McCourt with sole ownership of the Dodgers.