Selig thinks Dodgers process on pace
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday he still believes the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers will be completed by the April 30 deadline, the date by which current owner Frank McCourt must sell the club according to an agreement between McCourt and the league.
The process has hit several potential delays, including most recently a court battle between McCourt and Fox Sports in which McCourt sought to nullify the network's 45-day exclusive-rights window beginning in mid-October and running through Nov. 30 for negotiating a deal for the Dodgers' television rights beginning in 2014, after the expiration of Fox's current deal with the club.
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McCourt wanted that window nullified so he could explore the possibility of a new television contract immediately, before selling the club, claiming that would maximize the team's value. But McCourt agreed earlier this week to abide by that exclusive window, paving the way for the process to move forward.
"I think we're on track (for April 30)," Selig said. "I feel very confident about that. I think we're moving along just the way the legal process we are following very carefully has (laid out), and I feel very confident."
Selig spoke on the final day of baseball's quarterly owners meetings, which, depending on the timing of the sale, could be the last such gathering attended by McCourt. The list of potential new owners or ownership groups who have expressed interest in buying the Dodgers continues to grow at a rapid pace, and the Blackstone Group, the investment firm that is handling the sale for McCourt, already has distributed bid books to a handful of those entities. Blackstone will continue to accept bids through Jan. 23.
McCourt said he wasn't surprised that the process is moving along so quickly.
"I'm really pleased with how it is going," he said. "I'm not surprised at all, because it is a great franchise."
The decision by the Dodgers to honor Fox's exclusive window came after U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark, in granting Fox a stay, ruled that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross likely erred in allowing McCourt to go ahead with negotiations to sell the team's television rights. The Dodgers' stance now is that the ability for a new owner to sell the team's TV rights does, in and of itself, maximize the value of the club.
"My thought process here (in reaching agreement with Fox) was the same as it is with everything else," McCourt said. "That is to try to get things resolved in an amicable and mutually beneficial way. Litigation is a last resort. If people can resolve things mutually and amicably, that is always the best thing to do."
McCourt also dismissed a question as to whether the Dodgers might make a bid for free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder, the most prominent player still unsigned on this year's market.
"We're not going to talk about that, (because) that is for Ned," said McCourt, referring to Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti.
Meanwhile, one prominent person who has been linked to a potential ownership group, former Dodgers manager Joe Torre, declined to comment on his interest.
"There's really not much I can say," Torre said.
Torre recently resigned his position as MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations in order to join a potential ownership group headed by Los Angeles real-estate developer Rick Caruso. Torre remains on Selig's on-field committee, which met Thursday afternoon to discuss a myriad of issues including whether an extra wild-card team from each league will be added to the postseason in 2012 or delayed until 2013.
Selig said he was happy with the widespread interest in buying the team.
"The number of groups is impressive," he said. "The people are impressive. They have remarkable credentials. What does that show? It is a manifestation of how things in this sport are going. ... You try to find the best owner for the sport. That has always been my goal."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.