It’s Opening Day across Major League Baseball, but the 2017 National League pennant-winning Los Angeles Dodgers got a bit of a dark cloud with the fresh start. Several ticket brokers filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Superior Court in Los Angeles alleging breach of contract and other violations of state law stemming from the team’s decision to cancel the season ticket accounts of hundreds – if not thousands – of ticket brokers and then move that inventory to one vendor.
That deal, with Houston-based Eventellect, is reportedly worth over $100 million, though neither the team nor the brokerage has commented on the scope of the numbers involved. It was estimated that more than 20,000 season tickets in Major League Baseball’s largest stadium were voided in the process.
Four companies – Connecticut-based Prestige Entertainment, New York’s Broadway Hospitality Group, Venue Kings Ticket Brokers of Canada and California’s 714 Tickets – brought the lawsuit, which names as defendants Dodgers LLC and various associated entities. They list nine causes of action in the suit, and are requesting damages as well as an injunction ordering the team to cease the sale of seized season tickets and allow the plaintiffs the right to purchase season tickets and postseason tickets for the defending NL champions.
“The dodgers have decided to monopolize the secondary ticket market so they can inflate and control ticket prices,” says Jonathan M. Genish of Blackstone Law, who represents the plaintiffs. “They are essentially turning their backs on the fans and brokers who have supported this team for decades through playoff droughts, postseason failures, messy divorces, and nasty lawsuits. Fortunately, the law prevents the Dodgers from doing so and our clients will not sit idle and let that happen.”
An individual answering phones for the Dodgers’ public relations department said that we should “try calling back another day,” when TicketNews phoned the team requesting comment on the lawsuit. She quickly added that her comment should not be construed as an official statement by the organization.
The Dodgers host San Francisco at 7:08 this evening to kick off the season, which is the 60th anniversary of the team’s relocation from Brooklyn to California, presumably explaining the brevity on the part of the team staff.
In the complaint filed Wednesday, the plaintiffs outline several instances of the team’s having openly embraced business from ticket brokers through the last 30 years since its last World Series title in 1988, using the resellers’ expertise to help prop up their bottom line by moving tickets that otherwise would have gone unsold. Examples of this “symbiotic” relationship between the team and the broker community included special outreach messages prior to notable games like the September 2016 celebration of “Vin Scully Appreciation Day” – where the team took the extraordinary step of shutting down the official resale market (StubHub) for three hours to allow brokers to adjust their asking prices to suit the anticipated demand. A similar message was sent out in advance of the announcement of a bobblehead giveaway being added to a September contest, with the notation that “Hopefully this [email] gives you enough time to reprice your seats and take advantage of this added value opportunity.”
Another interesting claim is that team officials used the resources of their broker partners for their own personal gain. “For example, Dodgers’ president and chief executive Stan Kasten demanded that the Plaintiffs give Kasten impossible-to-get-tickets for the Broadway hit show Hamilton for a mere few hundred dollars when they were selling to the public for $5,000 each.
Where the relationship soured, according to both the complaint and media coverage at the time, was during the team’s run to the World Series last year. While media coverage focused on the huge number of broker-held seats and the potential revenue it represented, the lawsuit alleges that the team attempted to sell large amounts of inventory directly on the secondary market. “Unfortunately for all involved, especially the fans, the Dodgers overpriced the tickets and lacked the expertise in this niche business to sell thousands of tickets on less than 48 hours’ notice… game after game, the cameras panned through whole sections and rows of empty seats.”
Following the team’s loss in seven games to Houston, it put the finishing touches on a deal with Eventellect, which led to the cancellations of the broker-held seats, and this lawsuit.
We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.