A judge overseeing the bankruptcy of the Los Angeles Dodgers ordered team owner Frank McCourt and Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to testify about their fight over whether McCourt should be forced to sell the club.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross set Oct. 31 as the start of a hearing to decide between two futures for the franchise: one in which McCourt keeps the team and sells the rights to televise its games, or is forced to sell one of the most storied clubs in Major League Baseball.
“There is no middle ground,” Gross said in his scheduling order, filed yesterday in Wilmington, Delaware, where the hearing will take place.
The team filed bankruptcy in June after Selig refused to approve a new television contract that McCourt had negotiated with the current broadcaster, News Corp. (NWSA)’s Fox Sports.
Fox opposes McCourt’s proposal to hold an auction for the television rights, claiming it has an exclusive right to negotiate an extension of its current contract until 2012. The company’s television rights end after the 2013 baseball season.
Fox will be able to participate in the hearing, Gross said.
Gross said that he will consider how McCourt has managed the Dodgers, including whether the team has breached the bylaws of MLB, as well as Selig’s relationship with McCourt.
McCourt’s conduct and whether Selig has acted in good faith in dealing with the Dodgers will be one of the main focuses of the hearing, Gross said.
Selig asked Gross to let his office file a reorganization plan that would result in a sale of the team. For several months, McCourt and Selig have traded allegations about each other’s motives in court and in statements to the media.
Selig has accused McCourt of putting his interest ahead of the club’s and of violating MLB rules designed to benefit all teams. Selig has said it is in the best interest of baseball for McCourt to sell the team.
McCourt claims Selig is treating him more harshly than other owners.
“The Los Angeles Dodgers look forward to this hearing,” the team said in an e-mailed statement. “As previously stated, the debtor views its motion as best serving to maximize the value of its estate to the benefit of all stakeholders.”
Pat Courtney, an MLB spokesman, didn’t immediately return a call or e-mail seeking comment on yesterday’s order.
The bankruptcy case is In re Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, 11- 12010, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
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