Like any good horror movie villain, Frank McCourt isn’t through yet.
McCourt agreed on Tuesday, March 27 to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers — who had fallen into bankruptcy court following his messy divorce from his ex-wife Jamie — for a record $2.15 billion to a group headed by former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson. But before the Dodgers can officially change hands, Major League Baseball wants the Dodgers to repay the $8.3 million in legal costs it incurred fighting the Dodgers during their bankruptcy case.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday, April 3, that Major League Baseball’s lawyers are citing the sport’s constitution in demanding the Dodgers repay the legal fees. According to the MLB constitution, teams cannot embark upon “any form of litigation” against a fellow team or the league and that a “non-complying club” is responsible for its own legal fees should it sue a team or the league.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, say MLB Commissioner Bud Selig broke the constitution himself in wresting control of the Dodgers away from McCourt last April and that this therefore is no longer a constitutional issue.
The good news for Dodgers fans is the sale of the team almost certainly won’t be impeded by an argument over such a minimal amount of money. The Los Angeles Times reports the U.S. Bankruptcy Court is still expected to approve the Dodgers’ sale on — coincidentally enough — Friday, April 13. The Times reported March 27 that the franchise will officially change hands no later than Monday, April 30.
Likewise, the lingering McCourt drama shouldn’t have any impact on ticket sales for games at Dodger Stadium. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Dodgers’ attendance dropped by more than 600,000 last season — from 3,562,320 in 2010 to 2,935,139 — as fans grew frustrated with the muddied ownership situation as well as the Dodgers’ struggles on the field. The Dodgers made the National League Championship Series in 2008 and 2009 before stumbling to an 80-82 record in 2010 and an 82-79 mark last year.
ESPNLosAngeles.com reported Thursday, March 29 that the Dodgers saw an immediate increase in ticket sales following the sale of the team to the Johnson-led group. The Dodgers host the Pittsburgh Pirates in their home opener today, April 10, and are expected to be greeted by a sellout crowd.
“They’ll end up working through [the legal fees],” TicketCity CEO Randy Cohen told TicketNews. “That goes on in any kind of bankruptcy.”
Cohen said he’s sensed far more interest in the Dodgers than in recent years and that Los Angeles fans appear to be eager to support the Dodgers again now that a new ownership group is on the verge of taking over.
“The beginning of the season [always] has a lot of hype and Opening Day is always sold out,” Cohen said. “And you have people who are excited about Magic Johnson. People forget when you win, and some winners are a part of [the ownership group]. So it’s kind of cool.”