MILWAUKEE -- Hours after the Dodgers filed a lawsuit against Fox for interfering with the sale of the club and future broadcasting rights, Fox countered on Wednesday night by telling the same Delaware court that it would seek to dismiss the Dodgers from bankruptcy, scuttling the sale of the club and its broadcasting rights.
Fox claims the Dodgers entered into a "secret pact" with Major League Baseball to sell television rights that belong to Fox, in violation of bankruptcy law, after MLB originally opposed team owner Frank McCourt's attempts to auction the rights. Fox, through its Prime Ticket affiliate, is the current rights-holder through 2013 with an exclusive window to negotiate an extension.
Fox said that the dispute that led to the bankruptcy filing originally was between MLB and Fox on one side and the Dodgers on the other. But Fox's filing argued that the dispute has been "reconfigured" to the Dodgers vs. Fox, with MLB (which Fox called its "former ally") stepping aside. Fox further stated that specific terms of the Nov. 1 agreement have yet to be provided or filed with the court, despite attempts to obtain them.
The agreement between MLB and the Dodgers gives McCourt control over the sale of both the team and the broadcasting rights, the latter of which Fox claims Prime Ticket controls. Fox wrote that it will be "severely damaged" and that "substantial litigation is inevitable" if McCourt is allowed to auction those rights.
Fox wrote in the filing that it intends to depose McCourt as well as his marketing advisor, Blackstone Advisory Group; club executive Peter Wilhelm; and, possibly, unnamed MLB officials.
Fox's filing came roughly 12 hours after the Dodgers asked the court to prevent the broadcasting company from interfering with the sale of the club and future television rights.
"Fox is obviously desperate to avoid the scheduled media rights hearing. The TV rights have enormous value, which will lead to a record-smashing sale price for the team," the club said in a statement late Wednesday night.
The team asked for a temporary restraining order or injunction against Fox and also for damages, to be determined in court.
The action stems from a "cease and desist" letter Fox sent to Blackstone, which is handling the marketing of the club's broadcast rights as well as the club sale. The Dodgers claim that the interference puts Fox in contempt of court.
The Dodgers had previously filed a plan with the court seeking approval of the sale of the broadcasting rights before a sale of the club is conducted. Fox countered with a breach-of-contract lawsuit trying to prevent the sale.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross is scheduled to hold a Nov. 30 hearing on the motions.
McCourt's goal is to use a bidding war between Fox, Time-Warner and, possibly, other entities to cut a deal that would at least establish a market value for the broadcasting rights and, by extension, establish a market value for the club. McCourt has told the court that even if he strikes such a deal, the next owner would not be bound by it.
Through the terms of the Nov. 1 settlement between McCourt and MLB, McCourt controls the sale of the club to bring it out of bankruptcy, with MLB retaining its right to approve the new owner. MLB also agreed not to be a party to any lawsuits between the Dodgers and Fox.
The club, which could sell for more than $1 billion, is reportedly $700 million in debt, and through a divorce settlement, McCourt owes ex-wife Jamie an additional $131 million that must be paid by next April.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.