Exclusive: MLB Wants AEG LA Downtown Ballpark

On July 20, 2011, in a Delaware bankruptcy court, current Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball legal representatives will present competing plans for interim financing for the club.

FRANKenstein Monster & Dr. Selig

(Bud Selig as Dr. Frankenstein)

While MLB contends it already has the right to seize the team from McCourt, who recently revealed the club is now $525 million in debt, Commissioner Bud Selig is clearly wary of a legal challenge from the Dodger team owner Selig handpicked to buy the team in 2004 for $430 million despite McCourt putting up only $9 million in cash.

Another reason MLB has yet to strongarm McCourt: He owns the land where the Dodgers currently do business.

After McCourt’s 2004 bid was selected by Selig over a L.A. Times-reported $430 million cash offer for the club by Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad, the Boston native and his wife Jamie McCourt split the team and surrounding acreage into separate business entities. At the time, McCourt’s hyper-leveraged purchase of the MLB franchise was valued at $330 million, with the accompanying real estate pegged at $100 million.

McCourt’s savvy business move means that even if Selig seizes the heritage baseball franchise from the Frankenstein monster he himself created, the league - and next owner of the team - could wind up with McCourt as its landlord.

That factual backdrop explains why in the past 48 hours multiple sources have confirmed to me that MLB has reached out to AEG to inquire about the possibility of the company assisting the league - and the next permanent owner of the team - in building a downtown ballpark for the Dodgers. Read more…

McCourt BK: Misspells Player Names, Owes Scully

On Jan. 30, 2004, Frank and Jamie McCourt bought the Los Angeles Dodgers for $430 million. The Boston couple’s bid for the franchise, which included $9 million in cash, was reportedly approved by Bud Selig over Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad’s all-cash $430 million offer.

Frank McCourt owes Vin Scully $150,000

Today, seven years later, Mr. McCourt’s Dodgers filed for bankruptcy. Read more…

McCourt’s Charities: Backed By Stolen Ponzi Cash

On Nov. 28, 2008, Los Angeles Dodgers team owner Frank McCourt and team president Jamie McCourt announced a partnership between the ‘Dodgers Dream Foundation’ and the local Friedman Charitable Foundation to build 42 baseball diamonds around the city.

As part of the charitable venture, the McCourts noted that Bruce Friedman, Chair of the Friedman Charitable Foundation, had pledged $5 million to the construction project.

At the time of the charitable initiative, the Dodgers were in the midst of a contract negotiation with Manny Ramirez. A negotiation which prompted Jamie McCourt to observe that day to Dylan Hernandez of the LOS ANGELES TIMES:

“If you bring somebody in to play and pay them, pick a number, $30 million, does that seem a little weird to you?. That’s what we’re trying to figure out. We’re really trying to see it through the eyes of our fans. We’re really trying to understand, would they rather have the 50 fields?”

More from Hernandez:

The Dodgers recently made a two-year, $45-million offer to slugger Manny Ramirez that they later withdrew, and the McCourts seemed to be hedging against lavish spending during a time of such great economic uncertainty.

Jamie McCourt said the fact that the majority of contracts were guaranteed was a significant issue.

“I think, oddly enough, maybe if things weren’t guaranteed, then we could pay for it,” she said. “If people can’t play anymore, it’s like, ‘Oh well, see ya.’ Different story. Whatever money they are guaranteed could be money that we could otherwise have given to community.”

The cost of the project to build youth fields is unknown, but the Friedman Foundation has committed to donating as much as $5 million, matching every dollar spent on the endeavor by the Dodgers Dream Foundation up to that amount.

Frank McCourt said that while he and his wife contribute money out of their own pockets to the Dodgers’ charitable causes, the team and its foundation are separate entities and the funds to pay for the fields won’t be taken out of the team’s operating budget. But he too said the Dodgers had to re-examine their priorities.

“To me, it’s more, how do we prioritize?” he said. “Where should we be investing?”

Thanks to documents from the subsequent McCourt divorce proceeding, we now know their priorities: $167,050,000 borrowed against the Dodgers and spent on real estate for the McCourt’s personal and private use since taking over the team in 2004.

On March 4, 2009, the Dodgers signed Ramirez to a two-year, $45 million deal.

On March 4, 2009, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil lawsuit in United States District Court against “Dodgers Dream Foundation” benefactor Bruce Friedman for stealing $228 million from 1,500 investors in a massive Ponzi scheme. (Of that $228 million, it was later learned that Friedman used $57 million in fraudulently obtained investor funds for his personal and private use since 2004.)

One year earlier, on March 29, 2008, the McCourts bestowed on Friedman one of the highest honors the franchise could provide. From the L.A. TIMES on June 20, 2010:

Friedman also gave generously to charities — nearly $5 million, by Gill’s reckoning. One of his favored charities was the Dodgers Dream Foundation, which the baseball team founded to benefit underprivileged youth.

On March 29, 2008, the Dodgers invited Friedman to throw the first pitch at an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to mark the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers’ move from Brooklyn to L.A.

On March 26, 2008, according to credit card records obtained by the SEC and FBI, Friedman donated $25,000 to the McCourts’ other Dodger charity, “Thinkcure.”

Friedman: $25,000 charity donation to throw out first pitch?

Might that donation have had something to do with Friedman’s on-field appearance at the Coliseum 72 hours later?

Less than a year after that first pitch opportunity, and just four months removed from his $5 million pledge to the McCourts’ Dodgers Dream Foundation, Friedman had fled to Belize and then eventually France, where he was arrested by French authorities. Friedman is now in the process of being extradited to a U.S. federal lockup, where he will await trial after being subsequently criminally charged in a 23-count federal indictment that includes multiple felonies.

Bruce Friedman: $110,000 in Dodger Tickets from stolen Ponzi funds

So what became of the McCourts’ promise to build 42 baseball fields to benefit the local community? Without Friedman’s millions in stolen Ponzi cash, 2 1/2 years later, two such diamonds have quietly been built. And though they didn’t get their hands on the $5 million Friedman had promised, according to Friedman’s credit card records, on Dec. 20, 2007, he illegally transferred $110,000 in “investor” funds to the Dodgers for game tickets. Read more…

Dodger Fans Unanimous On Team’s Next Owner

While Los Angeles, sans Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, continues to luxuriate in Frank McCourt’s ouster, KFI-AM reporter Shannon Farren, polled Dodger fans this week on who they wanted as the next owner of the team.

The results were unanimous.

Thanks to David Perez and Aron Bender.

Follow Brooks on Twitter or join him on Facebook for real-time updates

Selig Forced FRANKenstein Monster On Dodgers

As Los Angeles Dodgers fans celebrate the demise of Frank McCourt’s appalling stewardship of the Dodgers the past seven years, somehow Bud Selig has emerged in the media as a heroic figure swooping in to save the day.

FRANKenstein Monster & Dr. Selig

(Dr. Selig: No Choice Now But To Slay His Very Own L.A. Creation)

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was Selig who, in January 2004, ignored a nearly all-cash $430 million offer for the Dodgers by local L.A. billionaire business magnate Eli Broad after MLB owners initially refused to ratify McCourt’s purchase of the Dodgers from News Corp. at the same price.

On Jan. 28, 2004, longtime LOS ANGELES TIMES baseball writer Ross Newhan noted the following as part of the newspaper’s timeline chronicling McCourt’s pursuit of the Dodgers:

Jan. 9, 2004: With financing concerns lingering, Selig calls off Jan. 14-15 vote but expects sale to be approved in a conference call before Jan. 31.

The day after that vote was called off, Newhan reported on Jan. 10, 2004:

Selig seldom calls for a vote unless he knows the outcome and it would be a surprise if a conference call produced a rejection, although there has been some speculation that the commissioner — intent on satisfying News Corp.’s determination to sell the team after a protracted process in which negotiations with two other bidders, Dave Checketts and Malcolm Glazer, ultimately broke down — would usher it through the full course and then let the owners decide if there were reason to be concerned about the financing.

McCourt was not included on Forbes’ most recent list of the 400 richest Americans (requiring a net worth of $600 million) and was a distant loser in bidding for the Boston Red Sox, but he owns valuable waterfront property in Boston that he reportedly is using as collateral in financing the acquisition.

11 days after Selig determined that he did not have the necessary MLB owner votes needed to ratify McCourt’s bid for the Dodgers, Newhan reported in the L.A. Times on Jan 20, 2004:

[Los Angeles developer and billionaire philanthropist Eli] Broad, whose net worth has been estimated at $3.8 billion, notified News Corp. (Dodgers Owners) Chairman Peter Chernin by letter last Wednesday that he was willing to offer the same $430 million if McCourt’s deal fell through.

His involvement, coming at the urging of Mayor James K. Hahn and former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley, among others, seemed to amplify concern in and out of baseball about McCourt’s ability to operate the Dodgers at an acceptable level and about the fact that he is proposing to invest little or none of his own money, with News Corp. loaning him almost half the $430 million.

McCourt needs three-fourths approval of the 30 owners, but the ownership committee has yet to recommend approval or rejection, and Commissioner Bud Selig has yet to schedule a conference call during which owners would vote on the sale.

Selig seldom puts an issue up for a vote unless he knows the outcome, which in most cases is to rubber-stamp his desires. ..

.. Whether Selig is determined to have McCourt approved as a favor to News Corp. because of its national and regional TV contracts with baseball or whether he would let owners reject the sale, feeling that he could tell News Corp. that he had done everything he could, isn’t clear.

If Selig’s intentions weren’t clear at that point, perhaps they should’ve been.

On Oct. 12, 2003, four months before MLB owners balked at approving McCourt’s stewardship of the Dodgers, ESPN.com reported of Selig’s stance on McCourt’s future ownership of the storied Los Angeles franchise:

A day after News Corp. reached an agreement in principle to sell the Dodgers to Boston real estate magnate Frank McCourt for $430 million, MLB commissioner Bud Selig expressed confidence the deal would be completed despite questions about whether McCourt had sufficient financial backing.

“I’m not concerned,” Selig said Saturday about the proposed sale that still must be approved in a vote of baseball owners.

McCourt’s financing remains unclear, baseball officials said, and his partnership has not been completed. A report from Boston indicated that McCourt might sell or find development partners for his properties there to help pay for the Dodgers.

Thanks to a report less than a month ago by FORBES magazine, we now know the financing McCourt used to somehow satisfy News Corp’s $430 million asking price - and the approval of Selig and at least 75% of MLB owners. Read more…

Comatose Fan: Giants Offer Reward, Not Dodgers!

Earlier this week I brought you the appallingly insensitive reaction of Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt after a fan was beaten into a coma in the Dodger Stadium parking lot following a Dodgers-Giants game last week.

Since McCourt’s unbelievably tone deaf response, local media-fueled public outrage in Los Angeles has grown exponentially, so much so that McCourt is now scrambling to repair his image the damage.

After McCourt was verbally savaged by current L.A.P.D. Chief Charlie Beck at a press conference yesterday for his mishandling of yet another violent crime at Dodger Stadium, McCourt announced he’d hired former L.A. Police Chief William Bratton as a security consultant.

The move by McCourt was clearly a public relations ploy to align himself with the popular Bratton, only days after McCourt had indicated that he was essentially satisfied with his own ballpark security force.

But while McCourt was writing a check to Bratton in a transparent attempt to extricate himself from what is now an irreparable public relations disaster, the Giants had already committed a check to help the L.A.P.D. solve the unspeakable violence perpetrated on a fan outside Dodger Stadium!

KCOP-TV in Los Angeles reported Thursday: Read more…

McCourt Turns Back Clock On Blunt Force Trauma

When he isn’t stealing $140 million from the Dodgers to buy luxury homes and fund his laughably extravagant lifestyle or attempting to buy off his former bride with $200 million earmarked for the team, Frank McCourt is practicing the kind of public relations skills that undoubtedly led Sunday’s Giants-Dodgers game to be played in a somehow-empty Dodger stadium.

Dodger Stadium

After the latest unspeakably violent crime perpetrated on an innocent baseball fan after a game at Dodger Stadium, McCourt had this to say about the now-comatose victim:

It’s very, very unfair to take what was otherwise a fantastic day - everything from the weather to the result of the game to just the overall experience - and to have a few individuals mar that.”

That comment followed this official statement from the Dodgers a day earlier:

It is extremely unfortunate that this incident took place on what was otherwise a great day at Dodger Stadium for tens of thousands of fans.”

Wonder who wrote the official statement. Read more…

Baseball’s “Best Interests”: Watch Dodgers Burn

In an opinion piece titled, “One of baseball’s enduring myths,” published by THE SPORTING NEWS on May 14, 1994, then-acting Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig wrote of the powers of his office as set out by the ubiquitous “best interests of baseball” clause:

Bud Selig and Frank McCourt

The all-power commissioner’ never was an accurate portrayal

The truth is, the Major League Baseball commissioner by definition has never been all-supreme or omnipotent except where public confidence and integrity are concerned. The notion of an almighty commissioner directing the business of baseball is incorrect.

For Dodger fans wondering why Selig hasn’t stepped in to try to clean up the mess that their storied franchise has assuredly become, that would be your answer.

Actually, that was your answer until Selig sent a letter to Texas Rangers ownership eight months ago. Read more…

Video: Dodger Fans Boo McCourt At Torre Sendoff

For some reason the Dodgers thought it appropriate to provide Joe Torre a ceremonial sendoff at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.

(Pitchforks and Torre) 

Before the game against the Diamondbacks, Torre addressed the fans on the public address system and made the unfortunate mistake of bringing up owner Frank McCourt’s name. Read more…

Acne Biz King McCourted For $25M Loan In 2009

More news of the recent and rather bizarre operation of the Dodgers continues to bleed out of a Los Angeles courtroom this week as Frank and Jamie McCourt wrangle over a divorce settlement.

Frank McCourt courted Acne Biz King For $25M loan

(A World Series ring will do that)

Bill Shaikin and E. Scott Reckard of the LOS ANGELES TIMES report today that in a deposition for the couple’s legal divorce proceeding, Frank McCourt revealed that last year he solicited $25 million in cash from the founder of a company “best known for marketing the Proactiv acne treatment.

McCourt said that in exchange for the money from Guthy-Renker founder Bill Guthy, McCourt offered the acne treatment marketing titan “a Championship Ring (when we win World Series).

As part of the deal, if McCourt was unable to pay Guthy back the $25 million in five years, the loan would convert into a small ownership stake in the team (2.77%). The ownership stake would be based on a $900 million valuation of the team at the time of conversion - which McCourt admitted was a “very high” estimate.

McCourt said that Guthy turned down the offer, saying that Guthy said he preferred “less risky investments.

When he bought the team with no money down in 2004, McCourt did a similar deal with three other investors. One has since been repaid and the other two loans have not yet matured.

The Times reports Jason Moskowitz, a Palos Verdes entrepreneur and chief executive of SkyBridge Private Air, was one of those three investors.

On May 18, Jon Weinbach of AOL FANHOUSE revealed another of the three investors:

FanHouse has also learned that the Dodgers’ ownership includes two limited partners who provided loans to help the McCourts finalize their purchase of the club in 2004, according to people familiar with the matter. One of the limited partners is Franklin Weigold, a long-time executive with Analog Devices, Inc., a Norwood, Mass.-based maker of electronic equipment. Weigold lives part of the year in Los Angeles and was also part of the McCourts’ failed bid to purchase the Boston Red Sox in 2001.

So why did McCourt go to Guthy to obtain $25 million in cash in 2009 in the first place?

The Times reports the move was in response to the shaky financial state of the Dodgers: Read more…