Dodgers Court Hearing Oct. 31

It won't be exactly on Halloween, but the Major League and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt have outlined their positions in filings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court as a foundation for a four-day hearing critical that starts on October 31 to resolve the ownership of the club.

Bill Shakin of the Los Angeles Times reports that McCourt's attorneys claim that the commissioner is making up his own rules that have dried up the money flow in a move that would removed the current Dodgers' owner. It was also alleged at Selig stopped the sale of television rights that would allowed the club to solve its money problems.

However Fox Sports said such a sale could leave the team liable for damages so "massive" as to threaten McCourt's strategy to overcome bankruptcy and hold on as the team's owner. Fox also threatened not to air the Dodgers' games for the final two years of the current contract, and Major League Baseball reiterated that it could render McCourt's television rights worthless by kicking the Dodgers out of the league.

MLB has asked the court to order the team sold. They also want the court to deny the Dodgers the chance to sell their television rights now, alleging that McCourt has diverted more than $180 million from team revenue for personal use.

The Dodgers' claim an unspecified portion of that $180 million was used to pay down debt and another unspecified portion was distributed to McCourt not by the Dodgers but by another McCourt entity to which the Dodgers pay rent, in an arrangement MLB approved in 2005.

"The commissioner's allegations are nothing more than pretexts to justify his desire to expel Mr. McCourt from Major League Baseball," the Dodgers' filing read, "not directly, in accordance with the due process rights afforded under the Major League Constitution, but indirectly by starving the Dodgers of liquidity until Mr. McCourt was left with no choice but to submit to the commissioner's desire that he sell the team."

Under the MLB Constitution, the league cannot strip an owner of his team without providing him a list of charges in writing, extending an opportunity for a hearing and securing the vote of three-fourths of other owners. "The commissioner does not have the authority to force an owner to sell," the Dodgers' filing read.

Instead, McCourt claims, Selig responded to the "enormous negative publicity" of last year's divorce trial by refusing to let the Dodgers sign a new television contract with Fox, take a loan from Fox or tap into the MLB credit line. He could put the Dodgers on solid long-term financial footing by selling their television rights now he claims, a moved challenged in separate filings by both MLB and Fox.

In an "he said, they said" argument that has highlighted the legal actions all along, the Dodgers said it was "unlikely that Fox Sports can assert any meaningful damages" for an early sale of the television rights. But in turn Fox threatened a damages claim so high it would threaten McCourt's promise to repay all creditors in full and "render meaningless" his financial projections.

If McCourt were to walk away from the current contract, Fox suggested it could pass up any chance to carry the Dodgers in 2012 and 2013 and leave the team to "confront the challenge of finding alternative means to air its games in a fashion that MLB would support."

Even under McCourt's projections, the league alleged the Dodgers' debts still would be so high that the club would operate at a loss starting in 2014. The league also claimed the Dodgers could get 10% to 20% more for its television rights by waiting a year or two.

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