10:14pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Fox Sports Settles Legal Dispute With L.A. Dodgers
Fox Sports has settled its legal battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the troubled baseball team agreeing to end its bid to sell lucrative television rights in advance of a proposed sale. In return, Fox won’t object to a separate deal in U.S. Bankruptcy Court between Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball that will almost certainly lead to the team being sold before an April 30 deadline.
Once approved, the settlement of the dueling lawsuits "will enable the [Dodgers] ... to focus their complete attention on the sale process," attorneys for the Dodgers said in a court filing Tuesday that was first reported by the LA Times.
As THR reported last month, Fox won a ruling by U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark temporarily preventing the Dodgers from auctioning TV rights immediately. Stark indicated in the ruling that he would likely make permanent his findings at a full hearing scheduled for Thursday. This deadline likely prompted the settlement.
The LAT reports that the Dodgers have now agreed to honor an existing agreement with Fox, which will allow a new owner to sign a rich new cable TV deal or even launch a freestanding Dodgers cable channel starting in 2014.
But Fox is still pressing McCourt to repay a $30 million personal loan provided by the company in April to meet the team’s payroll. And Fox still retains the right to challenge a sale of all or part the team to Time Warner Cable.
Observers expect that the sale of the Dodgers could fetch more than $1 billion. Among the potential bidders for the club are: a group that includes former manager Joe Torre and LA real estate developer Rick Caruso; Steven Cohen of the hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors; a group that includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson, baseball executive Stan Kasten and Guggenheim Partners executive officer Mark Walter; a group that includes Chicago White Sox consultant Dennis Gilbert, Larry King and financial executive Jason Reese of Imperial Capital; and a group possibly headed by former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley.