How the Los Angeles Dodgers went bankrupt
It was a fairly typical Monday at the United States Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. June 27, 2011. Administrators toiled in cubicles, sifting through the usual reams of nondescript paperwork. B1 forms proliferated, of course, signed by otherwise helpless directors of capitulating companies seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Nothing new. Nothing extraordinary. Until application NYA 648574.3 landed, that is. Until one of the most prestigious sports teams on the planet pleaded for fiscal mercy.
“Los Angeles Dodgers Holding Company LLC,” read the first fillable box on the form, entitled Name of Debtor. Six-time World Series champions, 21-time National League pennant winners, purveyors of a 56,000-seater stadium, the Dodgers were baseball royalty. Perhaps only the New York Yankees carried a more sacrosanct allure among competing ballclubs, and yet here they were – the Dodgers! – on the verge of financial collapse. Court workers could be forgiven for suspecting a prank, but reality is often stranger than fiction, especially in the murky world of corporate bankruptcy.
Completed by Dodgers vice president Jeff Ingram on behalf of his boss, team owner Frank McCourt, the infamous B1 form listed the team’s top 40 creditors amid mounting liquidity issues. Various active and bygone ballplayers were owed unpaid salaries – including Manny Ramírez at $20.9 million, Andruw Jones at $11 million and Juan Pierre at $3 million. The Chicago White Sox were owed $3.5 million; Levy Restaurants, a stadium caterer, awaited $588,322; and Continental Airlines claimed $399,403. Other creditors included Bank of America, Deloitte and KABC-AM Radio. Even Vin Scully, the team’s erstwhile announcer, was owed $152,778 – a particularly galling revelation.
The case was quickly assigned a reference number – 11-12010(KG) – and allocated to bankruptcy judge Kevin Gross. In a cruel twist of fate, the Dodgers once had a starting pitcher named Kevin Gross in the early-1990s. A five-team journeyman, he even pitched a no-hitter in Dodger blue – against the loathed San Francisco Giants, no less. Now, though, no mere ballplayer could salvage the Dodgers, who gawped into the abyss after 128 years of lyrical existence. Only a gavel could protect this prized sporting juggernaut, and crushed fans watched in horror as a shitshow unfurled before them.
To understand how the Los Angeles Dodgers wound up in bankruptcy court – how the empire came tumbling down – we must first travel back to 2004, when Frank McCourt, a Boston real estate developer, bought the Dodgers for $430 million from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Entertainment Group. After failed attempts to buy his hometown Red Sox and the Anaheim Angels, McCourt wanted in on the exclusive pantheon of baseball ownership, seeing it as a portal to Gatsby-esque influence, and the Dodgers fit his vision.
“Desperate to cut its losses, Fox created a bargain-basement clearance sale that allowed McCourt to buy the Dodgers without contributing one penny of his own money,” wrote Molly Knight in The Best Team Money Can Buy, her definitive opus on the modern Dodgers. “In what would wind up becoming one of the most lucrative sports business deals of all time, McCourt financed his $430 million purchase of the Dodgers with nothing but borrowed cash. In fact, Fox wanted to get rid of the team so badly it lent McCourt a big chunk of the money.”
Indeed, Fox loaned McCourt $145 million – secured against a parking lot he owned on the Boston waterfront – to take control of the Dodgers. Two years later, when McCourt defaulted on the loan, Fox foreclosed the land and sold it to recoup the lost money. “In the end, McCourt traded a parking lot for one of Major League Baseball’s flagship franchises,” wrote Knight. “It took him eight years to bankrupt it.”
The McCourts take over as Dodgers owners
Born into a rich family of construction magnates, McCourt made a lavish living hopping from one overleveraged project to the next – compounding sales proceeds from initially borrowed cash. The laws of economics barely contained McCourt, whose entrepreneurial vision oscillated between genius and grandiose delusion. While pursuing the Red Sox, for instance, McCourt promised to bulldoze Fenway Park – the most beloved ballpark in baseball – and build a new stadium on the aforementioned parking lot. That same year, Ingram, CEO of McCourt’s holding company, emailed his boss saying the organisation was due to run out of funds in six-to-eight months. Quite how McCourt planned to bankroll the Boston Red Sox, when he could barely bankroll a small real estate firm, remained to be seen.
Nevertheless, McCourt somehow mustered the money and realpolitikal smarm to land the Dodgers three years later. Despite worried murmurs from columnists and MLB owners alike, McCourt engineered a highly-leveraged purchase with minimal fuss. “We have more stringent ownership rules than we have ever had,” said MLB commissioner Bud Selig. “The banks were satisfied. We were satisfied. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be a good owner of a very storied franchise.”
In turn, McCourt used an introductory press conference to outline his bold ambitions for the future, centred on winning a first World Series title since 1988. “Welcome to a new era of Dodger baseball,” he said, flanked strategically by team legends Tommy Lasorda and Rick Monday. “I intend to restore the glory days of Dodger baseball with a team worthy of support from our fans. We’ve committed not just to buy this team, but to win a world championship. My first objective is to end the drought. I truly know I can provide the leadership that this team needs to win.”
McCourt told reporters that, following the impersonal Fox era, the Dodgers were returning to their roots of strong family ownership. In that respect, Frank installed his wife, Jamie, as vice chairman of the Dodgers. She later became team president and CEO, though job titles mattered little in a chaotic workplace culture that derailed a once-proud institution.
Frank vowed to keep the Dodgers’ payroll in MLB’s top quarter, and some of his earliest moves spoke to a tangible desire for success. Heck, the guy literally hired a Russian psychic, Vladimir Shpunt, to follow the Dodgers and ‘think blue.’ Shpunt claimed to boost the Dodgers’ chances of winning by 15%, and Frank bought it – quite literally. At least initially, the McCourts wanted to win, and they were even willing to endorse pseudoscience so long as it moved the needle.
Of course, this was the age of actual science – and mathematics – revolutionising baseball. John Henry, the guy who beat McCourt to the Red Sox, famously hired sabermetric demigod Bill James, who in turn tutored Theo Epstein, a Yale graduate who revolutionised the franchise. Showing surprising foresight, McCourt tried unsuccessfully to coax Epstein from Boston to Los Angeles – even offering Theo a stake in the Dodgers, according to journalist Seth Mnookin – only to settle for another Ivy League brainiac: Paul DePodesta.
With a Harvard degree in economics, DePodesta rose to fame as a key cog in the analytically-minded front office of Oakland A’s supremo Billy Beane. Peter Brand, the guy played by Jonah Hill in Moneyball? That was a restyling of DePodesta, who did not want to be portrayed in the movie. Seemingly intoxicated by Michael Lewis’ original Moneyball book – or perhaps spying an opportunity to cut costs under the auspices of data-driven ‘efficiency’ – McCourt hired the 31-year-old DePodesta as Dodgers GM in February 2004. The incoming exec had just 11 weeks to mould a functioning big league team, and that is exactly what he did. The 2004 Dodgers won 93 games and returned to the postseason for the first time since 1996. The future looked refreshingly bright.
Nevertheless, when the Dodgers failed in those 2004 playoffs – despite winning their first October game in 16 years – DePodesta was pilloried by a bellicose press. Lambasted as ‘Google boy’ and ‘computer nerd’ by Los Angeles Times columnists, DePodesta oversaw an intransigent offseason that yielded a 71-91 showing in 2005. No Dodgers team had lost that many games since 1992, and just one iteration had suffered more defeats since the franchise moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. Injuries to stars like Éric Gagné and JD Drew did not help, but DePodesta became an easy scapegoat. As such, perhaps swayed by prejudiced media sentiment, McCourt fired his GM after just 20 months on the job. The fact that, during DePodesta’s reign, team payroll fell to $81 million, eleventh in MLB, was comparatively overlooked. It was altogether easier to throw the new guy under the bus.
Personal luxury, baseball austerity
Such austerity marred the tenure of Ned Colletti, a shoot-from-the-hip baseball lifer who took over as Dodgers GM. Anathema to DePodesta in almost every way, Colletti embodied the philosophical vacillation that left the Dodgers in flux. Aside from cutting costs while maintaining a phony façade of Hollywood lustre, McCourt’s modus operandi was difficult to discern. Ownership slashed funding for international scouting, stunting a pipeline that produced stars like Fernando Valenzuela, Hideo Nomo, Pedro Martínez, Adrián Beltré and Raúl Mondesí. Front office budgets were also reduced by more than 20%. Meanwhile, keen to placate disgruntled fans, McCourt pushed for the incongruous signing of faded legends like Nomar Garciaparra, Kenny Lofton and Greg Maddux. Behind the scenes, foundations crumbled daily, and further fruitless seasons in 2006 and 2007 buttressed a deepening identity crisis. McCourt’s early bluster was revealed as hollow, and jaded fans wondered where all the money went.
“While the Dodgers were slashing spending, McCourt and his family spent extravagantly on nine multi-million dollar homes, a private jet on permanent standby and daily home salon sessions,” wrote Knight. “When the McCourts moved to LA, they paid $21.25 million for a home on Charing Cross Road across the street from the Playboy Mansion – a move that must have been popular with the couple’s four sons, who were between ages thirteen and twenty-two at the time. They spent an additional $14 million renovating it, including hauling their old kitchen across the country from their family home in Brookline, Massachusetts….They purchased the house next door after deciding their main spread wasn’t big enough for hosting guests or doing laundry. The McCourts also bought a Malibu mansion on the Pacific Coast Highway from actress Courtney Cox for $27.5 million. Then, when the family realised its beachfront backyard wasn’t large enough to accommodate the Olympic-size swimming pool Jamie required for her morning lap swims, they snapped up the home next door for $19 million as well.”
Meanwhile, working with a jumbled front office inherited from different regimes dating back to the 1960s, Colletti gained a reputation among fellow MLB executives for playing the financial margins like a small market minnow. The owners bought personal luxuries on a whim, it seemed, while the GM had to scrimp and save for serviceable big league players. The numbers did not add up, and Dodgers fans became impatient.
“Clearly, Frank and Jamie both had a great passion for baseball,” wrote Colletti in The Big Chair, his insightful memoir. “And both tried hard to figure out how to run a team. But unless you’ve owned another professional sports franchise, you can’t possibly understand what you’re getting into. Sports is not like real estate or construction or the newspaper or grocery business. Some fundamentals overlap, of course, but many don’t. Probably the biggest difference between a professional sports franchise and most other businesses is that, in sports, the people who get paid the most have only limited accountability – and the best fail more than they succeed.”
To wit, Frank McCourt liked to be surrounded by the best – by big stars and famous names. He liked to control them, too. But he did not necessarily like to pay them. Or, perhaps more accurately, he did not have the means to pay them – hence Colletti’s eternal struggle to fashion a swashbuckling product from meagre resources. The appointment of Yankees legend Joe Torre as manager in November 2007 fit that dual-track mission, as did a blockbuster trade for malcontent Red Sox hero Manny Ramírez. Both were lured by Colletti into semi-retirement out west, and the Dodgers almost caught lightning in a bottle down the stretch in 2008. A division title was followed by a playoff victory over the Cubs, only for Philadelphia to beat Los Angeles in the NLCS. Colletti did what he could, but he faced an impossible task.
A task that became even harder amid the 2008 financial crisis, which ravaged the real estate market upon which the McCourts built their flimsy empire. Almost overnight, the couple’s various properties lost considerable value, deflating the collateral underpinning their exorbitant borrowing. In turn, servicing mammoth debts became more difficult, and the McCourts responded by trimming Dodgers overheads. As such, Colletti had a potential trade for Cleveland ace CC Sabathia nixed by ownership, which refused to take on $4 million in additional salary. Meanwhile, the reacquisition of Maddux relied on Colletti convincing Padres GM Kevin Towers to throw in $2 million. Somehow, the Dodgers fell only three wins shy of hoisting the pennant – a dream that could have been realised with even a modicum of support from ownership.
The McCourts had other, more pressing aspirations, though, like getting Jamie elected President of the United States. Dodgers spin doctor Charles Steinberg was even tasked with creating a seven-page blueprint to that end, entitled Project Jamie, which included the creation of a ‘Dodgers University’ afterschool program to garner endorsements from prominent politicians. Consultants also urged Jamie to run for mayor of Los Angeles as a stepping stone from Chavez Ravine to the White House, muddling focus in the Dodgers’ chain of command.
Political sideshows notwithstanding, the Dodgers won another division title in 2009, amassing 95 wins, as young stars – Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, James Loney, Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton – merged with established veterans – Ramírez, Pierre, Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson, Rafael Furcal – to create a compelling brand of baseball. A playoff sweep of St Louis turbocharged optimism among Dodgers fans, only for disaster to strike on the eve of their subsequent NLCS opener against Philadelphia. After almost 30 years of marriage, the McCourts announced their intention to separate, throwing team ownership into flux. Obviously distracted and unfairly undermined, Torre’s team came out flat and lost to the Phillies in five games. Another shot at glory was destroyed by the C-suite.
The most expensive divorce in California history
Six days after the playoff exit, Jamie McCourt filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. In court filings, Jamie alleged that Frank had mismanaged the Dodgers’ finances to within an inch of the club’s life – robbing Peter to pay Paul with no real money in circulation. Furthermore, Jamie said the couple enjoyed $400 dinners at world class restaurants five nights per week and frequently stayed at $5,000-per-night hotels – all at the Dodgers’ expense.
Jamie alleged the McCourts took $108 million out of the Dodgers’ coffers between 2004 and 2009, paying zero federal or state income taxes along the way. Frank contested that figure and countered by firing Jamie as Dodgers CEO, changing the locks to her Chavez Ravine office, and surmising that his ex-wife had engaged in an affair with her driver, also employed by the Dodgers. A messy split played out in public as Frank was ordered to pay Jamie $225,000 per month in spousal support during the divorce proceedings. Meanwhile, a separate fight over ownership of the Dodgers ensued, replete with drama and confusion.
Jamie felt she deserved half the Dodgers’ value in divorce proceedings, but Frank disagreed. However, lacking the funds to buy Jamie out, Frank tinkered with semantics, releasing a statement saying the Dodgers were his alone thanks to a postnuptial agreement signed by Jamie before the couple moved to Los Angeles. The couple spent $20 million in legal fees trying to establish the veracity of said postnuptial agreement, and a superior court judge eventually ruled it unenforceable due to the existence of several different copies with conflicting verbiage.
In effect, the ruling entitled Jamie to half-ownership of the Dodgers, but the prospect of continuing to run the team together post-divorce – and post-CEO firing – did not seem viable to the McCourts. As such, selling the Dodgers became the only logical exit strategy. However, with club debts spiralling beyond $400 million, and with 2010 valuations of the Dodgers sitting at just over $700 million, a sale figured to leave little profit for the couple – certainly not enough to fund their exclusive lifestyles after settling the costly divorce. An impasse looked likely, and angry Dodgers fans were left to suffer through a lousy fourth-place finish as the rival Giants won their first world championship in 56 years. Symbolically, Torre retired after the 2010 season, tired of fighting with one arm tied behind his back.
Nevertheless, even as fans protested and threatened to boycott Dodger Stadium and team merchandise so long as the McCourts were in charge, Frank conjured a silver bullet – as he always seemed to do throughout a high-risk career. Frank knew the Dodgers’ television rights deal was due to expire following the 2013 season, and a shifting media landscape valued the renewal in billions of dollars. Accordingly, some believed Frank planned to run the Dodgers into the ground, devaluing it to a point where he could pay Jamie a deflated sum – borrowed, of course – for her stake before collecting the gargantuan television paycheck and moving onto his next venture. To that end, Frank took a $25 million advance on future television income to maintain franchise liquidity in 2010. He figured to rely on such chicanery throughout the bruising endgame, and on-field performance meant less to him than ever before.
It was classic McCourt in many ways, the kind of scheme he had pulled off countless times before, yet MLB proved to be a formidable foe. Divorce proceedings put the Dodgers’ books out in the open, and fellow ballclub owners – a notoriously close-knit fraternity – did not appreciate the dirty laundry of a marquee franchise being aired in public. Alerted to the potential PR cataclysm of an outlier ownership group upsetting the status quo, commissioner Selig paid close attention to the Dodgers’ situation, biding his time for a chance to intervene. Sadly, it took a tragedy to make that happen.
Following an Opening Day game between Los Angeles and San Francisco in April 2011, Giants fan Bryan Stow was beaten by two men in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Severely injured, Stow suffered brain damage and was left permanently disabled. The Dodgers were later found to be negligent in the beating, their parking lot deemed unsafe due to ownership taking the cheap option on reduced security measures. Accordingly, in April 2011, Selig appointed a league representative, diplomat Tom Schieffer, to oversee day-to-day running of the Dodgers, citing extreme concern for the team’s finances and operations.
MLB intervenes in Dodgers’ dealings
Leveraging power contained in MLB’s holistic franchise model, Schieffer’s approval was required for any Dodgers expenditure above $5,000. The league’s monitor could also kibosh any baseball moves orchestrated by Colletti that exceeded pre-agreed budgets. The Dodgers ranked 12th in Opening Day payroll, behind even the small market Minnesota Twins, while the Yankees spent almost double Los Angeles on salaries. Fans struggled to recall a darker epoch in Dodgers history.
Incredibly, the situation continued to deteriorate, however. With Schieffer in place, MLB had full sight of the Dodgers’ accounts, and the grim extent of their overleveraged finances became clear. Frank McCourt had taken a major loan against future season ticket sales, for instance, while the Dodgers Dream Foundation – a charity that built ballfields in deprived areas of Los Angeles – paid its top executive, Howard Sunkin, a McCourt crony, $400,000 per year. The foundation’s total annual budget was only $1.6 million, showing how the depths of nepotism were matched only by the dearth of ethics.
Pressing ahead with his Machiavellian plan to keep hold of the Dodgers until striking the television rights motherlode, Frank began negotiating with Fox two-and-a-half years before the active deal expired – a desperate ploy. Naturally keen to avoiding an eventual bidding war, Fox entertained McCourt and agreed in principle to a 20-year extension worth $3 billion, beginning in the 2014 season. As part of the proposed deal, Frank also finagled $385 million upfront to cover lawyer fees, float the Dodgers on a shoestring and attempt to settle the divorce.
With Selig’s approval required before the deal could be signed, Frank also eked out a $30 million personal loan from Fox to make payroll in the meantime. It was a rickety scheme built on sand, and the speculative nature of Monopoly money involved made approval unlikely. Indeed, Selig nixed the proposed television rights extension, unwilling to let Frank get out of jail for free. Rumours swirled that the Dodgers would be unable to make payroll in June 2011 without the Fox loan, but Selig held strong and blocked the perilous pact.
“It is my conclusion that this proposed transaction with Fox would not be in the interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise, the game of baseball and the millions of loyal fans of this historic club,” said Selig in a statement. “Critically, the transaction is structured to facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr McCourt. Given the magnitude of the transaction, such a diversion of assets would have the effect of mortgaging the future of the franchise to the long-term detriment of the club and its fans.”
The Dodgers’ bankruptcy
With his elaborate Fox scheme in tatters, Frank McCourt hatched another cunning plan, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on 27 June 2011, saying the Dodgers were ‘on the verge of running out of cash.’ Bankruptcy was not unprecedented for sports teams – among others, the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs endured similar fates – but rarely had such a valuable franchise hit the skids. Despite the onerous stigma attached to bankruptcy, McCourt actually won back a vestige of control procedurally with the move – the US Bankruptcy Court trumping MLB as a legislative body, freezing out Schieffer and allowing McCourt to accept the most money for a Dodgers sale rather than settling for a political takeover orchestrated by Selig.
A $150 million loan from MLB to the Dodgers, mediated by the Bankruptcy Court, allowed the franchise to make payroll and continue operating while the case was heard. Interim agreements were reached with creditors and vendors, mitigating the risk of contagion in the wider baseball economy. Selig did not take the bankruptcy lightly, though, attributing the team’s gross mismanagement to McCourt’s excessive debt and carefree use of the Dodgers as a personal credit card. Selig accused McCourt of ‘looting’ $189 million from the Dodgers through various schemes, including the siphoning of parking revenues via a private holding company.
Still pieced together by Colletti, and managed by Yankees icon Don Mattingly, the Dodgers actually salvaged some pride on the field in 2011. Sure, their 82-79 record was good only for a lacklustre third-place finish, but what more could be expected against such a tumultuous backdrop? Even as Kemp fell one home run shy of a legendary 40-40 season, and even as Kershaw solidified his standing as the greatest pitcher in baseball, attendance at Dodger Stadium sank below 3 million for the first time in a decade. Dodgers fans were hurt and disconsolate, with little hope on the horizon.
Finally, after much legal wrangling, Frank McCourt and MLB reached a deal in November 2011: the Dodgers would be put up for sale, and MLB would whittle the potential buyers down to a final three, who would then participate in a final auction for the team. Shortly after the bankruptcy auction was announced, Frank agreed to pay Jamie $131 million in a divorce settlement, effectively buying her half of the Dodgers.
A nerveless riverboat gambler, Frank had to know the impending team sale would net him significantly more than that, especially with any new owners set to capitalise on the television rights renewal. Quite why Jamie agreed to such an underpayment, perhaps tethered to a grave misunderstanding of the Dodgers’ coming value, remains a mystery. Indeed, Jamie later sued Frank, saying he knowingly misrepresented the Dodgers’ worth and effectively tricked his ex-wife into accepting a cut-rate settlement. That suit was dismissed, though, as Jamie accepted the certainty of a $131 million settlement over the uncertainty of an undetermined future bounty.
Trying to construct a respectable team amid the carnage, Colletti lost veteran catcher Rod Barajas to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates when the Dodgers could not stretch to a $4 million contract option in negotiations. Then, an unlikely agreement with prized free agent Prince Fielder was scotched when the GM could not reach McCourt for approval. At best, the embattled owner was distracted; at worst, he was insouciant. Selling the Dodgers was his top priority, and everything else paled into insignificance.
The Dodgers’ sale
As expected, given the television rights component of the Dodgers’ sales package, bids for the team flooded in from around the world. Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump, made an early offer. So, too, did flamboyant entrepreneur Mark Cuban. Torre even pursued a consortium bid, while many interested parties recruited Magic Johnson, certified Los Angeles royalty, as the endearing face of their respective campaigns. Ultimately, Steve Cohen, Stan Kroenke and Mark Walter of Guggenheim Investments advanced to the final round with bids worth north of $1 billion. Light appeared at the end of the tunnel.
That final round never materialised, though, as Walter sat down with Frank McCourt in a Manhattan conference room the night before the sealed auction. “McCourt slid a piece of paper across the table toward Walter,” recounted Knight. “It was a signed offer from Cohen to buy the Dodgers for $2 billion. Walter told McCourt he’d give him $2.15 billion, plus an interest in the land surrounding Dodger Stadium should he and his partners ever decide to develop it. There was one caveat, however: Walter told McCourt it was take-it-or-leave-it. If McCourt left the room, the deal was off. McCourt agreed to the terms, and the two men shook hands.”
The Guggenheim takeover was confirmed in March 2012 and finalised two months later, their purchase price the most ever paid for a professional sports team. Johnson served as a public figurehead for the group, engendering goodwill from the outset, while Walter was joined by venture capitalist Todd Boehly, movie producer Peter Guber and investor Bobby Patton. Meanwhile, Stan Kasten, a proven baseball executive who led the Atlanta Braves to great success in the 1990s, became team president, as a new dawn energised Dodgers fans.
Early commentary on the team sale focused on a supposed overpayment by Guggenheim. No baseball team had ever sold for $1 billion, let alone $2.15 billion out of bankruptcy court. In actuality, though, Guggenheim paid $1.6 billion for the baseball team while taking on $412 million of its debt. The remaining $150 million bought control of Dodger Stadium, although McCourt kept 130 acres around the ballpark, which he leased back to Guggenheim as parking lots for $14 million per year.
Whatever the breakdown, and for all the talk of inflated valuations, anyone who understood the evolving sports media landscape knew the Dodgers could command way more than $2.15 billion on their next television rights deal. A shrewd investor, Walter knew that. In a way, then, Guggenheim bought a license to print money. It was simple economics, really. Simple math. The deal eventually became a bargain, and Walter predicted that before anyone else.
Resolution and revitalisation
With $1.6 billion burning a hole in his wallet, Frank McCourt paid off Jamie, his creditors, divorce attorneys and the IRS – and still walked away with close to $1 billion. Not bad for somebody who bought the franchise with borrowed money, bankrupted it in less than a decade and dragged it through the mud of a scandalous divorce. In a certain light, you could even call it genius, though few in Los Angeles will agree.
For their part, Guggenheim revitalised the Dodgers with a decade of big spending and shrewd recruitment. Crusty McCourt holdovers were gradually dismissed, replaced by new age scions of a changing game. Kasten brought a championship pedigree to Los Angeles, while Andrew Friedman rebuilt a powerful front office as president of baseball operations. After several near-misses and ample false dawns, the Dodgers finally won the World Series in 2020, ending a 32-year championship drought and consigning the McCourt era to history. The rollercoaster reached a glorious climax, restoring pride to a ransacked organisation.
Indeed, under Guggenheim, the Dodgers have reclaimed their status as alpha dogs of the National League, landing three pennants, nine division titles and nine years atop the MLB attendance chart in addition to that 2020 crown. Once again, Los Angeles is the model franchise, the paragon powerhouse, the template to be followed for on-field success and off-field buzz. Sure, many fans have jumped aboard the bandwagon, riding the waves of newfound glory, but many diehards have stuck by their team through feast and famine, divorce and debauchery. They refused to let the Dodgers die, kicking and screaming from bankruptcy to domination, and it is their heroic perseverance we should remember, not the villainous neglect of a notorious owner.
- Worst Owner in Sports History: How Frank McCourt Ruined the Dodgers and Made a Fortune Doing It – Dodgers Nation, YouTube
- Force Out: A Dodgers Bankruptcy by Richard Marrero and CJ Fayton
- Los Angeles Times
- Steve The Ump MLB Payrolls
- The Best Team Money Can Buy by Molly Knight
- How to Beat a Broken Game by Pedro Moura
- True Blue by Steve Delsohn
- The Dodgers by Glenn Stout and Richard Johnson
- The Big Chair by Ned Colletti
- Wall Street Journal
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