Frank McCourt has been very vocal in recent days, blasting the Commissioner's office for failing to approve a massive extension of the club's TV deal with Fox that would also include an equity position in Prime Ticket. Saying the deal would provide both immediate cash in the neighborhood of $300 million and long-term stability, Frank has expressed frustration that Selig won't green-light a deal, saying yesterday, "I'm ready to sign it. Fox is ready to sign it."
Frank did not say next, "Jamie is ready to sign it." And therein may lie the rub. Shaikin:
One reason Commissioner Bud Selig has not approved a television contract with Fox that would serve as a financial lifeline for Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is that McCourt's ex-wife, Jamie, has not approved the deal, according to two people familiar with the matter.
In correspondence with the commissioner's office, Jamie McCourt asserted her right to a say in the Dodgers' television deals by virtue of her half-ownership of the team, according to a person familiar with the communication.
We've talked some about Jamie's potential involvement in Dodgers' decisions. In late January, we discussed the automatic restraining orders which take force upon filing for divorce and whether those might cover some or all of the interrelated entities that make up the McCourt Enterprise. At the beginning of March, we hit on the topic again after Jamie reacted strongly to Frank's attempt to pledge the club's future television rights as collateral for a loan from Fox.
So, long story short: there have been abundant signs that Jamie McCourt seemed likely to seek a more active role in protecting the value of the Dodger-related assets. After all, unless Frank can score a court victory, they're half hers. And here she is, apparently unwilling to approve Frank's life-preserver Fox extension. That makes some sense, as the Fox deal both (a) comes with Frank's promise not to use any of the up-front cash to settle the divorce and (b) forecloses on the potential for the Dodgers to start their own TV network.
I doubt that Jamie anticipates actually starting and profiting from such a network. But she's certainly right in thinking that prospective bidders will value the Dodgers very differently depending on the status of the TV rights. Like the acreage around Dodger Stadium, uncommitted TV rights are a very significant value add to the franchise, and encumbering them in any way--either pledging them as security for a loan or selling them long term--could have a negative impact on the value of the Dodgers.
Though this dispute comes in Frank's dealings with the Commissioner's office, the parties' attorneys are set to argue about Jamie's right to financial information in court on May 11. If Jamie is successful, Judge Gordon will order Frank to supply Jamie with enhanced information about the Dodgers' dealings. Should she find something untoward, she would likely seek further judicial intervention, although MLB's installation of Tom Schieffer might obviate the need for any further protection.
Where it gets interesting is the extent to which she may allege improprieties on Frank's part. Over a year ago, in the context of arguing for a higher spousal support award than Frank suggested, Jamie's lawyers told the court:
Frank, with the assistance of his top financial advisors, has engaged in creating an elaborate subterfuge, designed to attempt to deceive this Court into believing that his wealth and his actual and potential cash flow . . . have dramatically decreased.The emphasis was in the document itself. If Jamie went down that rabbit hole in the support context, is there any doubt she'll have folks ready to take an eagle-eyed look at the flow of cash in, out, and among the various Dodgers entities when it comes time to divvy up assets? Not in this little corner of the internet, there's not.