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Dodgers' co-owners split over MLB takeover

By Alan Duke, CNN
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, left, talks with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt at Dodger Stadium in 2006.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, left, talks with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt at Dodger Stadium in 2006.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Frank McCourt calls the takeover "hard to understand"
  • Jamie McCourt welcomes Major League Baseball's takeover of the Dodgers
  • Ex-couple have fought for control of the team amid divorce proceedings
  • Commissioner cites concern about team's finances, says he's protecting its best interests

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Los Angeles Dodgers' co-owner Jamie McCourt welcomed Major League Baseball's takeover of the financially troubled franchise Thursday, but there are signs her ex-husband will not easily accept the move.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said Wednesday said he was appointing a representative to oversee the Dodgers' operations, in "the best interests of the club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball."

Frank McCourt, in a statement sent to CNN Thursday, said Selig's concerns about team finances is "hard to understand."

Major League Baseball sets strict financial guidelines which all 30 teams must follow," McCourt said. "The Dodgers are in compliance with these guidelines."

The man hired earlier this week by McCourt as vice chairman to help run the team told the Los Angeles Times Selig's action was "irresponsible" and that McCourt was able to meet the team's financial obligations.

"He can pay the piper," Dodger vice chairman Steve Soboroff told the newspaper.

The bitter divorce battle between the McCourts last year highlighted the club's financial troubles and revealed how the couple redirected more than $100 million of Dodger funds toward their extravagant personal lifestyle, according to court documents. The team's debt is estimated to be above $400 million.

"As the 50% owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I welcome and support the Commissioner's actions to provide the necessary transparency, guidance and direction for the franchise and for Dodgers fans everywhere," Jamie McCourt said Thursday in a written statement to CNN.

The league's action follows reports that Frank McCourt has needed to borrow money to meet payroll obligations, that he would need to pay his wife to become sole owner of the team, and that he recently met with baseball officials over a proposed TV deal with Fox.

Soboroff, in his Los Angeles Times interview, said Selig's approval of the 20-year TV rights agreement with Fox, worth an estimated $3 billion, would be enough to put the team into the financial black.

"This is like having money in the bank and having somebody hold your ATM card," Soboroff told the newspaper. "The money is in the bank. The Fox deal is done."

Selig, who threatened similar action after the Texas Rangers filed for bankruptcy last year, said he would announce the name of his representative to run the Dodgers "in the next several days."

"My office will continue its thorough investigation into the operations and finances of the Dodgers and related entities during the period of Mr. McCourt's ownership," Selig said.

"The Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious franchises in all of sports, and we owe it to their legion of loyal fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future," he said.

In an e-mail sent to Dodgers employees Wednesday, Frank McCourt asked that they "please continue to conduct business as usual with our complete dedication to the game and our loyal fans."

"Each of you has represented this organization with class, and while this is no doubt a challenging time for all of us, I truly appreciate your efforts," McCourt wrote, according to an MLB.com story on the Dodgers' website.

The Dodgers, who have made the playoffs four out of the seven full seasons under the McCourts' ownership, have started this season with an 9-10 record.