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MLB Takes Over Dodgers


There's news late today that Major League Baseball is taking over the operation of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In a statement, Commissioner Bud Selig said he has great concerns about the Dodgers. And that he's made this move, quote, "To protect the best interests of the club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball."

The future of the Dodgers has been clouded for more than a year by the nasty divorce of owners Frank and Jamie McCourt. The fight for control of the club exposed details of the couple's lavish lifestyle - multiple multimillion dollar homes and extravagant spending.

NPR's Tom Goldman is with us. And, Tom, let's start with today's action by the commissioner of Baseball. What more did Bud Selig say?

TOM GOLDMAN: Michele, he said that he has informed the Dodgers' owner Frank McCourt that he, Bud Selig, will appoint a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the club.

The statement goes on to say: I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interest of the club, as you mentioned, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball.

My office will continue its thorough investigation into the operations and finances of the Dodgers and related entities during the period of Mr. McCourt's ownership. I will announce the name of my representative in the next several days.

And he concludes, Michele, by saying: The Dodgers had been one of the most prestigious franchises in all of sports and we owe it to their legion of loyal fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future.

NORRIS: We'll get to that investigation in a minute. But first, let's talk timing. Why is baseball doing this now?

GOLDMAN: Well, the finances are in question, obviously. The L.A. Times reports that Frank McCourt got a $30-million loan from Fox, which used to own the Dodgers to cover expenses in the next month. And this is the second time McCourt has gone to Fox looking for money.

Bud Selig, the commissioner, nicks a $200-million request last year, I believe it was, or earlier this year. And it's just worrisome to Bid Selig that one of baseball's most prestigious franchises, as he says in the statement, is just not on good financial footing.

NORRIS: The McCourt divorce also raised questions about the Dodgers finances. Could you explain?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, sure. The divorce proceedings, which began in 2009, revealed that both Frank and Jamie McCourt used team funds to pay for personal lifestyle.

In divorce filings, it said that the Dodgers were paying two of the McCourt sons' salaries totaling $600,000 a year even though one of those sons had another full-time job and the other was attending graduate school. The filings said the McCourts hadn't paid income taxes since 2004 and that they taken out nearly $400 million in loans against future ticket revenue.

And here's one of the weird parts of this - and there were many weird parts of it - the L.A. Times reported last year that the McCourts secretly had paid a 71-year-old, who said he was a scientist and a healer, more than $100,000 to help the Dodgers win by sending positive energy from his Boston area home.

NORRIS: Curious. Selig's statement also said that he is conducting an investigation into the Dodgers finances and its operations. How significant is that?

GOLDMAN: Well, it could be very significant. He reportedly is investigating. It shows the $30-million loan from Fox. And it just shows that for Major League Baseball, it's more than just the divorce proceedings. Major League Baseball is concerned about the health of this franchise and the loans, the spending on personal lives. It's really just too much for Selig to take.

NORRIS: I got to let you go in just a second, but what about the fans?

GOLDMAN: Well, the fans are hoping that by doing this and maybe an eventual takeover of ownership that this will return the Dodgers to greatness that they had under Walter O'Malley and his family.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.