In the clearest indication yet that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt does not plan to yield control of the team without a fight, the club’s new vice chairman blasted Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to take over the Dodgers as “irresponsible” and dismissed concerns that McCourt is too financially strapped to operate the team.
“He can pay the piper,” vice chairman Steve Soboroff said.
In a statement on Wednesday, Selig said he would appoint a trustee to oversee the team “because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers.” McCourt needed a $30-million loan last week in order to meet the first payroll of the season.
On April 5, McCourt presented Selig with an agreement for a 20-year television contract with Fox, worth at least $3 billion, that McCourt said would enable him to settle his divorce, manage the Dodgers’ debts and improve the team.
Selig neither approved nor rejected the proposed agreement, which Soboroff said would have provided the Dodgers with the financial stability the commissioner said he seeks.
“This is like having money in the bank and having somebody hold your ATM card,” Soboroff said. “The money is in the bank. The Fox deal is done. These actions are not allowing him to access money. That’s a lot different than saying he’s got financial problems.”
Soboroff, a former advisor to former Mayor Richard Riordan, a mayoral candidate and the developer of Playa Vista, was hired by McCourt on Tuesday. In a meeting with reporters, Soboroff said, “Frank McCourt is financially fine.”
Selig was said to be aghast at that statement, but Soboroff did not back down. He cited the Fox deal, potential real estate development in the Dodger Stadium parking lot and unidentified “other potential new revenue sources” as untapped sources of revenue for McCourt.
“That would put the Dodgers in as strong a financial position as almost any team in baseball,” Soboroff said.
Soboroff acknowledged that McCourt has made mistakes during his seven years running the Dodgers, in particular the more than $100 million that McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie, redirected from team revenues toward an extravagant personal lifestyle.
However, Soboroff said McCourt should be given the chance to learn from his mistakes and follow through on his promise to redouble the Dodgers’ involvement in the community. Selig’s words and actions on Wednesday do not mean that McCourt cannot solve his financial problems, Soboroff said.
“That is not the issue. They have made a decision they want somebody else,” Soboroff said. “There’s a predetermined campaign to blow him out of town. I think it’s irresponsible and it’s hurting the city.
“We need more people like Frank McCourt.”
On Wednesday, on his first full day on the job, Soboroff said he participated in interviews with candidates for the job of Dodgers’ security chief, a full-time position that has been vacant for four months.
On Thursday, Soboroff said, he intends to keep his appointments — in the morning, with city officials to discuss a Dodgers sportsmanship program at 400 city parks and recreation centers; in the afternoon, with representatives from a literacy program in which team employees could become involved.
Selig has yet to select the trustee or say exactly when he would report to Dodger Stadium.
“I’m going to work until that magic man comes in and tells me to leave,” Soboroff said.