L.A. Dodger File Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

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Team owner Frank McCourt says bankruptcy was the only option after Major League Baseball rejected a television deal with Fox Sports.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The Los Angles Dodgers have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a not-so-unexpected turn in the feud between Major League Baseball and the team's owners. Owner Frank McCourt is going through a costly divorce, and that has exposed his tenuous finances.

NPR's Mike Pesca has more.

MIKE PESCA: When Walter O'Malley moved them out of Brooklyn, the Dodgers were called morally bankrupt. Dodger Dogs, the culinary choice of Chavez Ravine, have long been regarded as nutritionally bankrupt. But it took owner Frank McCourt's Chapter 11 filing to make the Dodgers bankrupt-bankrupt.

In the annals of unpopular owners, few rival Frank McCourt in his ability to draw the unanimous ire of fan, colleague, league and, as is materially relevant in this case, wife - or soon-to-be ex-wife.

McCourt�is as defiant today as he was two months ago, when he traveled to New York to meet with the baseball commissioner, who declined to take the meeting.

Mr. FRANK MCCOURT (Owner, Los Angeles Dodgers): Nobody handed the Dodgers to me, and nobody's going to take it away. I think it is fundamentally wrong for any person to stand in the way of a transaction, which is a sound business transaction.

PESCA: That transaction is the multiyear, multibillion-dollar deal Fox Sports would pay the Dodgers for broadcast rights. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has blocked that deal, which got him accused of being un-American by Frank McCourt.

There's ample evidence that Fox knew it was dealing with a desperate buyer going through a divorce, and was therefore paying less than what the Dodgers were worth, says Craig Calcaterra, a lawyer who blogs about baseball at Hardball Talk.

Mr. CRAIG CALCATERRA (Lawyer, Hardball Talk): It would set a bogey for financial deals from TV stations for Major League Baseball teams at a painfully low level. The Dodger's TV rights should sell much higher. The upfront money from a TV deal should not be going - over half of it should not being going to Frank McCourt and Jamie McCourt's personal financial needs.

PESCA: Indeed, court filings reveal that a large portion of the Fox deal would go toward settling the McCourt�divorce.

One reason sports is interesting is because we don't know what's going to happen next. The Dodger disaster is the opposite. The bankruptcy doesn't surprise those familiar with how overleveraged McCourt is. So it's reality TV that is more bathos than bravo.

Perhaps the next episode will feature the return of the team's top creditor. Manny Ramirez wants the $21 million the team owns him. Will he form an alliance with ex-teammate and fellow creditor Hideki Kuroda? On the next Desperate Dodgers.

Mike Pesca, NPR News.

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