The Dodgers should not be allowed to emerge from bankruptcy until they settle $8.3 million in bills from Major League Baseball, attorneys for the league argued in a court filing Tuesday.
The issue is not likely to delay the sale of the Dodgers, which the U.S. Bankruptcy Court is expected to approve April 13.
Frank McCourt agreed last week to sell the team to Guggenheim Baseball Partners, a group fronted by Magic Johnson and incoming team President Stan Kasten, for $2.15 billion, a world record for a sports franchise. The transaction is scheduled to close April 30.
The Dodgers already have incurred more than $20 million in “bankruptcy-related expenses,” according to court records. According to Tuesday’s filing, the matter of how much the Dodgers owe MLB has been submitted to the court-appointed mediator, Joseph Farnan.
The primary question for Farnan is whether the Dodgers should repay MLB for its legal costs in the bankruptcy case. Of the $8.3 million in bills included in Tuesday’s filing, all but about $400,000 cover legal fees.
In their argument, league attorneys cited the MLB constitution, which expressly forbids teams from “any form of litigation” against one another or the league itself. Under the constitution, teams agree to be “finally and unappealably bound” by the authority of the commissioner, who is empowered to pursue reimbursement of legal costs from any “non-complying club.”
The Dodgers previously have argued that they should not necessarily be bound by the constitution, alleging that Commissioner Bud Selig did not follow his own rules in what they called a premeditated effort to oust McCourt. The Dodgers claimed that, rather than call for a vote in which three-fourths of all owners would have had to agree to strip McCourt of his franchise, Selig hatched a plan to choke off the team’s money supply, ultimately precipitating the bankruptcy filing.
In addition to seeking reimbursement for legal fees, MLB included in Tuesday’s filing what the league claimed were the Dodgers’ unpaid bills dating to 2008. The miscellaneous expenses included the team’s share of annual MLB music licensing fees, reimbursement for MLB background checks on Dodgers prospects in the Dominican Republic and charges incurred by team officials during the general managers’ meetings in 2010.