Frank McCourt says he has no intention of leaving L.A.
Reporting from Milwaukee -- Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has become a pariah in Los Angeles, accused by Major League Baseball of pilfering $189 million from his team, booed vociferously in his own stadium and essentially forced to sell the club out of bankruptcy.
Fans have done everything but post “You Are Not Welcome Here” signs in Chavez Ravine, yet McCourt says he has no intention of leaving town after a new owner takes over the Dodgers.
“I love Los Angeles and plan to stay in L.A.,” McCourt said after Thursday’s MLB owners meetings. “I don’t know what my plans are, quite frankly, because I haven’t had time to think about that.”
McCourt and his family moved from his native Boston when he bought the Dodgers in 2004. He has put the team and the Los Angeles Marathon up for sale, and as part of his divorce agreement, Frank will get two homes in Massachusetts and Jamie McCourt will keep three homes in Southern California.
The embattled owner, who has run up at least $16 million in legal fees while taking the Dodgers into bankruptcy and contesting what is believed to be the most expensive divorce in California history, says he would like to put an end to his litany of litigation.
“You know, I respect the law as a profession,” McCourt said with a chuckle, “but believe me, I’ve had enough for a lifetime. If I don’t have to deal with any lawyers again, I’ll be just as happy.”
McCourt this month gave up his fight against MLB and agreed to sell the Dodgers before a scheduled trial in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
McCourt, who was hoping to retain the team so he could pass it to his four sons, has always been perceived as a fighter. Had he lost in court, he would have had to have sold the team.
But after a bruising two-year battle to keep the Dodgers, why not wait a few more weeks to see if he won in court?
“I had personal reasons to make the decision that I’m not at liberty to share at this time,” McCourt said. “I felt it was the right time because there’s a lot of people who have been very good to me, people I’ve been very supportive of and loyal to, as well, and my fight started to affect people I really care about.”
The owner will leave Dodgers fans with a parting gift, an eight-year, $160-million contract extension that will keep star center fielder Matt Kemp in Los Angeles long after McCourt is gone.
McCourt said the deal, which will be officially announced on Friday, was not an effort to improve his image on his way out the door.
“It was only about what’s best for the organization,” McCourt said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do. I haven’t always been successful at it, but I’ve tried. I’m not making any last-ditch efforts to do anything. I’m trying to do the right thing up until the last moment.”
Some thought the right thing for McCourt to do this week was skip these meetings, which were held in the hometown of Commissioner Bud Selig, who pressured McCourt to sell his club.
A person highly placed in MLB told the Chicago Tribune that some owners advised Selig not to speak to McCourt.
“Can you believe this guy is coming to the meeting?” one executive asked. “Wouldn’t you just think he would take his money and go?”
McCourt said he was not discouraged from attending, and he did speak to Selig Thursday.
“It was a very brief hello,” McCourt said, “but nothing of substance.”
Was it awkward having McCourt at the meetings?
“Not for me,” Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said. “Frank has come to every meeting. He hasn’t missed one.”
Was it strange for Selig?
“No,” the commissioner said. “That all went about as well as it could.”
McCourt maintained a business-as-usual approach, participating with fellow owners in meetings, mingling with executives from other teams and chatting with writers in the lobby bar.
“The situation was difficult for everyone, but it was nothing I couldn’t work through,” McCourt said. “I was happy to see my fellow owners. They treated me just fine.”
Selig will be happy when McCourt is gone. The owner has an April 30 deadline to sell the team and pay his ex-wife $131 million.
“I think it will move right along,” McCourt said of the sale process. “The interest is enormous, which is the way it should be. This is one of the great franchises in sports, and I’m proud of the interest there is in it.”
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