Reports: Dodgers lack payroll funds

Updated: May 5, 2011, 11:07 AM ET
ESPNLosAngeles.com

Major League Baseball believes the Los Angeles Dodgers do not have enough money to make their end of May payroll, according to multiple reports.

The Los Angeles Times first reported that the Dodgers lacked the cash to make their May 31 payroll.

If the Dodgers fail to cover, the league would foot the bill and could seize the team from owner Frank McCourt, according to the newspaper.

"The fact that we had obligations coming due in 2011 was no surprise to us and no surprise to Major League Baseball," McCourt said in a statement to The Associated Press.

McCourt has publicly complained commissioner Bud Selig has refused to approve a 17-year contract with Fox that could be worth more than $3 billion, a deal that would include a front-loaded payment of about $300 million.

"We developed a plan which eventually became the Fox transaction. We've been working on that plan, in different versions, for the last six months," McCourt said. "That is a transaction that is now completely negotiated, ready to be signed, and ready to be closed. It's the series of delays in allowing us to close this transaction that has created the problem here. Otherwise, there would be no problem here. My recent investment into the club was necessitated by the delay."

The commissioner's office effectively took control of the team on April 20, and former Texas Rangers president Tom Schieffer was appointed the team's monitor six days later by Selig. Schieffer must approve any transaction of more than $5,000.

Based on its Opening-Day payroll of $103.8 million, the Dodgers' payroll for its major league roster in the second half of May will be approximately $8.25 million. The figure includes 16 days' salary, but not any signing bonus payments that happen to fall due.

McCourt, involved in a contentious divorce, took a $30 million loan from Fox, the team's television partner, in the weeks leading up to Selig's decision to appoint a monitor. Baseball was concerned that McCourt was removing assets from the franchise, once considered one of the premier teams in the sport.

McCourt has publicly complained Selig has refused to approve a 17-year contract with Fox that could be worth more than $3 billion, a deal that would include a front-loaded payment of about $300 million.

Meanwhile, McCourt, while taking calls from listeners Tuesday on the "Mason & Ireland" show on ESPN 710 AM, denied that he took more than $100 million out of the team's coffers to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his estranged wife, Jamie.

In an answer to a caller identified only as "Ken from Newport," who asked McCourt why he took, in Ken's words, $127 million out of the team's revenues for personal use, McCourt said that wasn't true. Instead, he said he and Jamie McCourt have taken a total of $100 million for personal use in the seven years since they bought the team in 2004, and that most of that didn't come from the team.

"It's just not true," McCourt said. "Let me tell you what happened. During the seven years ... approximately $100 million, if you tally it all up, went to me and my wife. Let's talk about it in terms of what it was. It was made up of $5 million per year that went to me ... not from the Dodgers but from my overall business. Another $2 million per year went to my wife while she was president of the Dodgers. That five plus two is $7 million a year ... and if you multiply that by seven years, that comes to half of $100 million roughly, $49 million.

"The other $50 million of the $100 million was a loan taken out on real estate, again not from the team at all, and it was a loan that has to be paid back."

Asked by one of the hosts about the number of houses he and Jamie purchased before their separation, McCourt admitted that he lived "an excessive lifestyle," something he subtly but unmistakeably blamed on his former wife.

"It wasn't sustainable, and it was unhealthy as far as I'm concerned," McCourt said. "I am living in a one-bedroom place [now]. Looking around, I know a lot of people have it a lot worse than I do, but I don't need a lot of houses and I don't need all these things. This [divorce] has been great for me because before I came to L.A., I didn't have all this stuff. I don't need it now, and I don't need it moving forward. I made a lifestyle decision, and it was to not live that way anymore.

"I'm not married anymore either, guys, and that is all I'll say."

McCourt's "one-bedroom place," according to multiple sources, is at the posh Montage resort in Beverly Hills.

McCourt also acknowledged a suggestion by one of the hosts that he would stand to make a considerable profit if he were to sell the team, but he said he doesn't intend to do so.

"There is no question ... we would sell at a lot more money than I paid for it," McCourt said. "It would be a big profit, but I'm not here for a big profit. I am here for the reason I have said I am here since the day I arrived. Did I get moved sideways a little bit? Yes, I did. Am I responsible? Yes, I am. Am I sorry? Yes, I am. I love the game, I love the community, I love the team. It would be an easy decision for me to take the money and run, but I'm not going to make the easy decision. I'm going to fulfill the promises I made to the fans."

McCourt acknowledged that public sentiment has turned largely against him, but he blamed that on the fact that, at the request of his four sons, he has kept his public statements to a minimum during his divorce, preventing him from defending himself against a slew of criticism from the media.

"In this day and age, if you don't defend yourself when people are saying stuff about you, some of it sticks," McCourt said. "It is very clear to me that some of this has stuck because I was silent. Sometimes, people read that silence as not caring or arrogance or maybe that it's true. That is why I now will be speaking regularly and clearing the air."

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Tony Jackson and The Associated Press was used in this report. Follow Jackson on Twitter.

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