Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is not entitled to a wide range of Major League Baseball documents that would enable him to turn a bankruptcy court hearing into “a multi-ringed side show of mini-trials on his personal disputes” with the league, attorneys for MLB argued in a court filing Wednesday.
The league also alleged in the court filing that McCourt tried to take $20 million out of the Dodgers in late April, amid the team’s payroll crisis. The league previously has cited divorce court filings that show McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie, used more than $100 million of team revenues for personal purposes.
In mid-April, McCourt took a $30-million personal loan from Fox, using $20 million to fund the first payrolls of the season. Commissioner Bud Selig soon thereafter appointed a trustee to oversee the Dodgers’ finances, after which McCourt asked that the $20 million be returned to him since he would not have final say over the money, according to a person familiar with the request but not authorized to discuss it. The request was denied, the person said.
“This is just another example of MLB trying to disparage an owner by leaking confidential information to the media from an unnamed source,” Dodgers senior vice president Howard Sunkin said. “This has been their mode of operation since last fall.”
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment.
The bankruptcy court has set a July 20 hearing to decide whether McCourt or the league should provide the financing to operate the Dodgers through the bankruptcy process.
In Wednesday’s filing, MLB attorneys allege that McCourt has demanded a plethora of documents that are “wholly irrelevant” to the issue of short-term financing, including requests for disclosures about the financial troubles of the New York Mets and about the television contracts negotiated in recent years by the Mets, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres.
That information, the league alleged, would better speak to “growing concerns regarding Mr. McCourt’s mismanagement of the team, his inability to subordinate his personal interests to those of the team and the league ... and the resulting harm to one of the league’s most storied franchises and its fan base.”
The league has offered the Dodgers short-term financing at better terms than McCourt could get, at a lower interest rate and without $9.75 million in fees. In a statement, a McCourt spokesman said all the requested documents are necessary to “reveal the commissioner’s real agenda in his mistreatment of the Dodgers and demonstrate why the Dodgers should not borrow money from MLB.”
McCourt claims Selig’s decision to reject a proposed television contract with Fox forced the Dodgers into bankruptcy, an allegation the league dismissed in Wednesday’s filing as “frivolous.”
The bankruptcy court has scheduled a hearing Thursday to consider what evidence each side must turn over and whether Selig and other top MLB officials are subject to deposition next week.