Selig, McCourt meet briefly to discuss Dodgers
Commissioner: No decisions on team until report is complete
NEW YORK -- No determination about the fate of the Dodgers has been made, Commissioner Bud Selig said on Thursday.
Selig, speaking to the media after the quarterly MLB Owners Meetings, said he is anxiously awaiting reports from his representative who is monitoring the franchise and the law firm that has been charged with investigating its finances before making any decisions.
"The outcome is not predetermined," Selig said. "We have a monitoring and an investigative approach to this and when I have all the information, then I'll make decisions. This sport has very definitive rules and it's my job to make sure that the rules are enforced."
Selig confirmed that he met personally with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt on Wednesday, the first time the two have met face-to-face since Major League Baseball took control of the Dodgers on April 20. Since then, Selig has appointed former Rangers president Tom Schieffer to monitor the Dodgers and approve all financial transactions larger than $5,000, and has enlisted the international law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP to investigate how McCourt has handled the club's finances.
Selig said he has asked that those reports be filed "expeditiously," but there is no timetable for their completion. At immediate risk, according to news reports, is the possibility that the Dodgers will not be able to make their payroll at the end of May.
McCourt said that he's awaiting Selig's approval of a $3 billion TV rights extension deal with Fox so he can resolve his short-term financial problems, and that was the subject of Wednesday's short meeting. McCourt has already taken a $30 million personal loan from Fox to make his last April and upcoming mid-May payrolls.
"I wanted to convey to [Selig] the timing of the situation in regard to the deal we have pending," McCourt said on Thursday morning before attending the joint meeting.
Asked how the Commissioner responded, McCourt said: "You have to ask him."
Selig said that he will not move forward on any issue involving the Dodgers until he receives the reports.
"Everybody is moving in as expeditious a manner as possible, but I can't set a time limit," Selig said.
In the immediate wake of Selig's actions to take control of the Dodgers on a day-to-day basis, McCourt said that baseball had a "predetermined agenda" of intending to take away his ownership or force him to sell the club.
"Nobody handed the Dodgers to me," said McCourt, who purchased the Dodgers from News Corp., which owns Fox, in 2005 and has since been involved in divorce proceedings with his now-former wife Jamie about whether she owns 50 percent of the franchise. "Nobody is going to take them away."
Under MLB's debt-service rule, which is part of the Basic Agreement, no club is allowed to borrow money to pay expenses. That club must work to decrease those expenses or sell equity in the franchise to raise capital.
Recent financial dilemmas faced by the Padres and Mets have been or are being addressed by owners who followed that rule. In the case of the Padres, as majority owner John Moores and his wife Becky divorced, Moores significantly diminished player payroll while selling 49 percent of the club's equity to a group headed by Jeff Moorad, who has four more years to buy the team in its entirety.
The Mets ownership, headed by Fred Wilpon, has been embroiled in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scandal, which has led to a $1 billion clawback lawsuit against the team's owners. After borrowing money from MLB this past winter to meet expenses, the Mets are in the process of selling up to a 49-percent equity share of the franchise to raise capital.
Selig said on Thursday that MLB's ownership committee has not yet been given any names from the Mets as far as a purchaser, but he's staying in touch with the firm that is handling that transaction on a "daily basis."
"I'm very confident that they're heading toward a very satisfactory conclusion," Selig said. "I've said this before and I'll say it again: when you have a problem, the Mets are doing what you have to do. They're raising equity by selling a portion of the team."
If Selig intends to take any action against McCourt because he's not in compliance with the debt-service rule, he said he'll address that issue at a future date after he receives the reports, which will weigh heavily in his decision.
"Nothing is predetermined," Selig said. "That's why [Schieffer's] there and that's why our law firm, Proskauer, is doing a lot of other work. We wouldn't have to go through all this if it was predetermined. I'm doing it because I think it's the right thing to do."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.