Steve Soboroff announced his resignation as the Dodgers’ vice chairman Saturday, five days before the payroll deadline that could trigger the end of Frank McCourt’s ownership of the team.
McCourt hired Soboroff two months ago, entrusting the civic leader with making Dodger Stadium a more enjoyable place for fans and revitalizing the team’s ties with the community. Commissioner Bud Selig imposed a trustee upon the Dodgers the next day, however, forcing McCourt to focus on saving his ownership and thrusting Soboroff into the awkward position of introducing himself to baseball by attacking Selig.
“The present environment is not conducive to getting the results I was brought on to achieve for the Dodger organization or for Los Angeles,” Soboroff wrote in his resignation letter, tendered Friday.
Soboroff declined to comment Saturday.
Neither McCourt nor Selig solicited Soboroff’s resignation, said two people familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it. The appointment of a trustee, however, gave Major League Baseball approval rights for all expenditures over $5,000, and the league never approved a contract for Soboroff, the people said. McCourt used personal funds to pay Soboroff, one of the people said.
McCourt and his attorneys have reached out to MLB in recent days, trying to come to an agreement that could provide the Dodgers owner with interim funding this week and keep him in control beyond then.
McCourt was told the league would not assist with any funding unless he agreed to sell the Dodgers, according to a person familiar with the discussions. McCourt needs close to $30 million to meet the Dodgers’ payroll on Thursday, and MLB officials do not expect him to do so.
If McCourt fails to meet payroll, Selig could seize the team and put it up for sale. Robert Sacks, an attorney for McCourt, last week threatened litigation against Selig and did not rule out the Dodgers filing for bankruptcy.
Sacks also said McCourt would consider selling a minority share of the Dodgers. The owners of the New York Mets raised cash that way this year, with Selig’s blessing.
The league, however, has all but rebuffed McCourt’s late interest in selling a minority share, citing an approval process for potential investors that would extend well beyond this week’s payroll deadline. McCourt was advised by league officials months ago to sell a minority share, but people familiar with McCourt’s thinking say he declined to submit the names of potential investors because he was uncertain how seriously the league would consider them.
On his first full day on the job, Soboroff ripped Selig, saying McCourt sincerely wanted to help the community and could have solved his financial problems with the Fox television contract that Selig has since rejected.
“That is not the issue. They have made a decision they want somebody else,” Soboroff said at the time. “There’s a predetermined campaign to blow him out of town. I think it’s irresponsible and it’s hurting the city.”