Bidding War For Dodgers TV Rights Looms

A former TV sports executive said today that the trustee who will be appointed by Major League Baseball to handle day-to-day operations of the financially strapped Los Angeles Dodgers would have to consider scrapping a TV rights offer from Fox Sports currently on the table and open the bidding to others. Former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson told Bloomberg that Fox’s current offer, which the Los Angeles Times reported today is a 20-year deal worth about $3 billion, might not be the team’s best option. “The trustee would take a very serious look at that deal and could very well void it,” he said. “He may very well think the team can get more money if they put it up for bid.” If so, that could open the door to Fox Sports rival Time Warner Cable, which recently locked up the Los Angeles Lakers’ TV rights with a 20-year deal that begins with the 2012-13 NBA season and will see the creation of a pair of HD channels to show the team’s games.

Any TV rights deal would be used to reduce the Dodgers’ debt, which Bloomberg Businessweek reported in August was about $525 million. (Forbes has said almost all the team’s profit was being eaten up by interest.) All of this comes two days after baseball commissioner Bud Selig said that the league would take financial control of the team, citing “deep concerns regarding the finances and operations.” On Thursday, Dodgers vice chairman Steve Soboroff ripped into the league’s decision, telling the LA Times that there’s a “predetermined campaign to blow [Dodgers owner Frank McCourt] out of town.” Of course, McCourt is at the center of the storm: His public and nasty divorce from wife Jamie McCourt has cost millions, and as part of the split a judge invalidated a prenup that essentially said Frank McCourt was the team’s sole owner. A $30 million personal loan from Fox that McCourt recently arranged to cover the team’s payroll raised the latest red flag at MLB headquarters.

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