Overwrought reaction to Guggenheim ‘lie’ misses point

In January, more than four months before the sale of the Dodgers was completed, Bill Shaikin clarified in the Times that Frank McCourt might not include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the transaction.

That meant the new owners, while retaining the actual revenue from parking at the stadium, would owe McCourt a $14 million annual lease payment for use of the land. At the time, it was not clear whether McCourt was just using this as a bargaining chip, or whether he intended to hang onto the lots. But we lived in fear that some group bidding on the team would be unable to resist caving in to McCourt and letting him retain an interest in the property.

As it turned out,that’s what happened. McCourt did retain an interest in the lots when he sold the team to the Guggenheim group at the end of March. We learned this within hours of the announcement of the sale.

New owners collect daily parking revenue. McCourt retains interest in land. These facts were  established weeks ago.

Then, at last week’s press conference introducing the Guggenheim ownership group, Magic Johnson told the assembled that as far as McCourt was concerned, his “only future profits is from new development, if we do any. … Frank’s not here, he’s not part of the Dodgers anymore.”

McCourt, Johnson said, “would not get a dime from the parking.”

It seemed clear to me what Johnson meant. McCourt would not be involved in the day-to-day operations for the Dodgers. He would not be making any decisions that didn’t involve development of the property surrounding the stadium. His income would not depend on how many tickets were sold and how many cars parked at Dodger Stadium.

None of this was contrary to anything we already understood.

But over the weekend, Gene Maddaus of L.A. Weekly reported that Johnson “flat-out lied to Dodger fans,” the first step in a you-know-what storm that not only (unsurprisingly) swept up T.J. Simers of the Times but even new team president Stan Kasten, who expressed regret to the Times that the new owners had given the wrong impression.

But had they?

Again, let’s review.

1) We know McCourt still has an interest in the Dodger Stadium property. That wasn’t denied.

2) McCourt isn’t getting parking revenue from the Dodgers. That remains true.

3) McCourt is getting a land lease payment from the new owners. That, despite Shaikin’s new report on May 4, was something we essentially had all known would be the case for more than a month. There was never any report that McCourt, in retaining co-ownership of the land, wouldn’t retain a financial interest in the Dodgers’ use of it.

The idea that we should be angry about this, that we should feel lied to, doesn’t make sense to me.

There are two separate things going on. One is that McCourt still has a connection to the world of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That is exceedingly unfortunate — and his profit from the team after the way he debased it is offensive — but it’s a fact of life and one we’ve had time to get used to.  I wish it weren’t so, but it is.

But let’s be clear on the other thing. McCourt’s post-sale connection to the franchise is not a secret and has not been a secret. The new owners haven’t hid it, and while they understandably don’t want to talk about it, they did not hide it at the press conference last week.

The new owners didn’t lie. McCourt isn’t getting a dime from parking.  He is getting lease income. Now, you can say that’s semantics, as Maddaus and Simers clearly believe, and that the two things are the same. But if you do so, you’re the one that’s being misleading, by implying that a fan going to the game can affect McCourt’s income by choosing whether or not to park at Dodger Stadium or not.  It’s not true. Parking at Dodger Stadium does not affect how much money McCourt will get, any more than sales of tickets, hot dogs or baseball caps affect how much money McCourt will get.

So who is more guilty of giving the wrong impression about McCourt’s connection to the parking? The Guggenheim group, or the members of the press who misreport the connection?

Clearly, the Guggenheimerians could have handled this issue a little better, by outlining the land-lease payment the same way I just did. I actually thought the press conference last week was mostly a successful one, though their discomfort about talking about McCourt was palpable, a price of their ongoing relationship with him.

But the implication about this controversy is that it’s a metaphor, that it speaks to a level of deception with the new owners. Is it?

I don’t think it speaks to deception, as much fallibility.

The new owners have promised to make the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium the best they can be. They haven’t ruled out developing the surrounding property. They haven’t ruled out (to my chagrin) selling the naming rights. While they’ve said they are not broke and will invest in on-field improvements to the team, they haven’t indicated that there’s a blank checkbook. This isn’t the Chocolate Factory, and they aren’t Willy Wonka.

There isn’t much reason to believe that the Guggenheim group is up to some scheme that we’re not aware of. If you want to fear something, fear that they just won’t achieve what they set out to achieve.

If you were under the impression that the new owners would somehow make everything perfect at Dodger Stadium, you’ve got your own naivete to blame. I fully expect an improvement over the previous regime, thanks largely to Kasten, who said more meaningful things last week than I heard from McCourt in eight years and who, most importantly, has a relevant track record of success. But there’s no more going to be Nirvana here than there was under Peter O’Malley. Remember — even Matt Kemp gets out half the time. There’s no perfection in baseball.

My hope is that the new owners have the best intentions, and that their actions are positive ones. I want the Dodgers to win. I want Dodger Stadium to be the jewel it can be. But of course, there’s reason to remain skeptical about the Guggenheim group, just as there’s reason to remain skeptical about any set of businesspersons making grand pronouncements.

McCourt’s actions never backed up his words. Is that going to be the case with Guggenheim? We don’t know yet, and nothing that happened at last week’s press conference told us one way or the other. We know that the future of the Dodgers under Guggenheim will include McCourt on the periphery. That has not been in question, and no shocking revelations have emerged.

What remains in doubt — but what I remain hopeful for — is that the future of the Dodgers can flower despite this connection. That’s what matters.

Update: Magic Johnson was asked about the lease payment at the ownership press conference, this clip from Dodger Thoughts commenter Robert212 illustrates. Given this exchange – which I completely missed and don’t see quoted anywhere else – it’s fair to say that Johnson, irresponsibly, was not truthful about the arrangement with McCourt. And it certainly wasn’t worth obfuscating.

It’s disappointing, both as a follower of the Dodgers and as the writer of this piece today. I feel that this was a critical piece of information that I should have had. It wasn’t that I was ignoring it – I just didn’t have it.

I stand by my belief that lease money isn’t the same as parking revenue, but more importantly, I stand by my conclusion in this afternoon’s piece, which is that I hope and believe the Dodgers can flower despite the team’s connection with the McCourts. As I said in my piece, there’s reason to be skeptical – and that was true whatever Johnson’s words. The truth about what Johnson said rightfully might impact the trust that the fan base has with what is spoken by ownership, but hopefully it serves as a teaching moment that compels them to better, rather than the symptom of a pattern.

I don’t believe that the new ownership is poisoned. It’s simply too soon to know. Heck, even as I repeatedly criticized McCourt eight years ago, I still held out hope that he might prove an asset. I intend to do the same with the Guggenheim group.

  • Anonymous

    It’s just extremely disappointing how new ownership has made such glaring mistakes in the first few weeks by underestimating how hated McCourt was – first by entering into business with him, then actually showing up with him on opening day.
    Although I agree with you that it is foolish to label Guggenheim crooked and say that they have some evil scheme they plan to enact simply because they have made early PR gaffes, I do think that they were misleading at the press conference. Technically what they said was accurate, but the impression that was left was that McCourt had nothing to do with and/or no profits to reap from anything other than possible future development. That is just flat out false. Will it effect the team in any tangible way? No. But I think Simmers was simply trying to point out that after the lies and deception fans had to endure under McCourt, the last thing we wanted to see was more fuzzy math.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      When Magic said that McCourt’s “only future profits is from new development.” I took this to mean that the only money McCourt might get — beyond what he is already getting — will come from new development.  I never took it to mean that McCourt wouldn’t get any money from the new ownership group at all, because I understood all along that he would.

      I agree this could have been spelled out more bluntly.  But I’m not prepared to call it “flat out false.” 

      • Anonymous

         They also made a big point at the press conference that they wanted to “enhance the Dodger Stadium experience” for the players and fans…..
        ….
        Could it have been “pre-agreed upon” that the new ownership group would undertake renovations/redevelopments/improvements that would then automatically bring Frank into the loop both in terms of logistics and money?

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          I’m not sure I understand the question. But in terms of improvements to the stadium itself, Frank is not a factor. In terms of development outside the stadium, Frank is part of the conversation before any ground is broken.

          • Anonymous

             Yes.  I’m picturing those renderings (models) of the shopping / entertainment area proposed behind the pavillions.

            I think Frank and Jamie trotted those out about 2 or 3 years ago.
            Would Frank be privvy to any of that action?

          • Anonymous

             http://la.curbed.com/archives/2012/04/everyone_betting_on_dodger_stadium_land_development.php

          • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

             Yes.

          • Greg Hao

            If I recall correctly, that was for land outside of the gift shop and in the parking lot.  If so, then yes.

      • Anonymous

        I considered myself fairly up to snuff on the situation throughout the entire bankruptcy proceeding and sale of the team.  I was aware of the separate entities, the lease agreement, and the fact that McCourt was not required to include the parking lots in the sale.  I also was aware that many groups backed out of the dealings when they were told that McCourt wanted to keep the lots.  Still – I don’t have the resources that the Times do – but I never saw or read anything after the terms of the sale were agreed upon that led me to believe that McCourt had anything other than a 50% stake in the land if future development was pursued.  So the argument that GBG was not required to mention that because it was somehow already understood is a bogus one.

        Also, the ONLY reason there is a $14 million annual lease is BECAUSE of the fact that there is substantial parking revenue.  So even though McCourt does not get a pro rata share of parking revenue… he is still making money on people parking in the Dodger Stadium parking lots.  I don’t like it, but if it was what closed the deal, so be it…. BUT – admit to it and stop trying to save face by playing the technicality card.

        • Greg Hao

          The LA sports media journos have not draped themselves in any honour throughout this entire episode.  The only one whose reporting has been anything close to stellar is Bill Shaikin’s.  

          Remember ESPN/LA drooling all over themselves over that Josh Machiallo (sp?) character?  

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

           I think when people think of parking money, they think of money that comes out of their pocket to park their cars. And none of that money is going to McCourt. I don’t really even see that as a technicality, any more than if one were try to say that my mortgage holder is getting “parking money” from me so that I can use my driveway.

          • http://www.oneforfive.com/ heyblue

            I don’t agree with that analogy, Jon.  It would only be true if you owned your house free and clear but had a mortgage on your driveway. 

            I am a Dodgers fan but have been following the ownership transfer only casually – as I imagine many fans have – and when I heard Magic at the press conference I took his statements to mean that Frank McCourt was not going to be receiving any money from the GBG unless they decide to develop the parking lots in the future.  I do now feel a bit misled.  That said, I don’t think we were being lied to per se, though there was certainly an element of underplaying McCourt’s interest. 

            In the end, I agree with the sentiment, if not all the specifics of your point.  I don’t feel that GBG is up to something nefarious that we should all be wary of.  I am optimistic about this group.

            However, after the McCourt regime we are all divorcees, wronged and scorned and until the GBG has earned our trust we should be forgiven our skepticism of this new relationship.

          • Anonymous

            I see it differently.  I see it as the definition of a technicality.  Is the money I pay to park at DS going directly into the pocket of McCourt?  Technically no, but the fact that I pretty much HAVE to park there – and not some other convoluted process of getting to the stadium – is the reason that he is getting such a large chunk of change.  If it were an acre of land in the middle of Wyoming would anyone pay that much money to lease it?

            My point is simply as heyblue mentions below – they told fans, and reiterated it over and over, that McCourt’s only economical interest in the Dodger’s was future development of the parking lots.  That is NOT true.  He is getting paid a handsome amount because he maintains an interest in a crucial piece of the process of going to a game.  The assumption that we already knew about the lease and therefore didn’t need to mention it – if true – is misleading at best, and deceptive in my book.  Not that I think they are deceptive in every area of operation, but after what we have had to deal with recently you HAVE to give us a little leeway and allow us to call them out on it.

          • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

            Landon, I guess we have to agree to disagree. I think you’re the one who’s operating on a technicality to make your case. 

            Look at what Go_Bears wrote below.  That, to me, is much more descriptive of what’s going on. McCourt was going to get the money for the land, one way or another. What’s happening with this approach is that the land payment to McCourt is being spread out over time, rather than being purchased outright up front.

            I understand the parking lots obviously serve a specific purpose today, but the fact remains that McCourt still gets his money even if no one parks there. So to me that clearly means it’s not parking money.

          • Greg Hao

            See, NOW I’m confused!  I thought McCourt is getting “parking money” per your definition?

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamkaz Adam Kazmierski

    Wow… well said Jon. 

  • Anonymous

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, Jon. 

  • Greg Hao

    The frustrating thing out of all of this is the lack of primary source document.  As the Shaikin story you linked to (the one in which Kasten expressed regret), Shaikin himself talked about a document that the Times obtained.  Just release the document!  When the Times posted the original bankruptcy court filing of the sales agreement, it contained a number of additional exhibits which weren’t under seal and the Times could have obtained and released to its readers.

    Now, I understand that the legal entity owning the parking lot wasn’t under the purview of the bankruptcy court and so the related parties had no legal obligation to disclose any information but it was disappointing to all fans of transparency that the incoming owners didn’t release those terms themselves.  I agree with you Jon that it is more a case of misspeaking than outright lies.

    I will say though that I am surprised (not shocked) that the contract to lease the parking lot is still in effect.  I would have thought that when members of GBM bought 51% interest in the parking lot holding company, they would have just tore up that contract.

    The net effect of all of this is still essentially that the owners of the Dodgers are shifting money in different pockets.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      I hear what you’re saying, though I just think it’s so rare for any entity to start releasing document after document.  I mean – and this was Frank and Jamie’s humongous failing – we would have seen hardly any primary source documents if not for the divorce. I understand the desire for transparency, but you just don’t see billion-dollar businesses posting documents online, do you?

      • Greg Hao

        Undoubtedly you’re right.  And while I would never expect to see the partnership records between the partners of GBM, I think Magic/Kasten/Walter didn’t understand the vitriol against Frank McCourt, which I’ve always thought was way overblown anyway.  I understand the Simers of the world was always going to try to exploit any small gap for click throughs but by releasing the terms of the parking lot agreement, they would have soothed a lot of fans.

        However, there is one impartial entity who does hold the document, The LA Times, why don’t they release the document?  And they’re really the subject of my relative ire.  Private companies will do everything they can to release as little information as they can but that’s why journalists and their sources exists, to help shine some light on issues.

  • Anonymous

    Disclosure would  have been best though it was and has been MLB (Selig and owners) who allowed the team and land to be split and then in Bankruptcy Court, their legal team could not convince the Court to add the parking lots to the assets to be sold.  As Kasten said to ESPN 710 yesterday, they did the best as they could to gain as much control to that land but [McCourt] did not have to include it and that was a the leverage they had to deal with.

  • Anonymous

    Wow Jon, thanks for your clear opinion on all this.  I have not read the Simers column recently.. and after your post.. I DON’T WANT TO! Can’t these Times’ column writers back off a bit rather than live in their vision of constant negativity?

    • Greg Hao

      Have you never read Simers before?  He’s been writing for the Times for what, close to a decade?  I think I can count the number of positive stories he write on one hand.  Simer’s a provocateur and you need to take his columns (which are more OpEd than straight reporting) with a giant pile of salt.

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

         He loves those Clippers right now.  I’ve enjoyed those columns.

      • Anonymous

        Greg, there’s a reason why I don’t check his column on a regular basis…and you counting on one hand the amount of positive articles is being generous..pass me more of that salt.

      • Anonymous

        For years, Simers has tried to make a name for himself by running down the hometown favorites and those teams performing well.  I gave up on him years ago.  He is unreadable.

  • Anonymous

    So really, another way to think about this is that the $14M/yr lease is really just a deferred part of the purchase price.  McCourt receives $2.whatever billion, minus the value of the debts he still owed, plus the present discounted value of $14M/yr for however many years.  The alternative to the lease agreement would have been an even larger up-front payment.  Since his take has nothing whatever to do with the future revenues of the team, to say nothing of profitability, this is merely a fuller explication of the purchase price.  Future possible land development notwithstanding, they’re “still in business” with McCourt only insofar as they owe him a lump sum payment every year.  Unless he has sole options on renegotiation of that lease, I’d say Jon is right that there was no lie.

    Then, the announcement of the price drop for parking from $15 to $10 also does not affect McCourt in any way.  That’s money coming straight out of the pockets of the new owners.  I wonder what the total parking revenue is in a season (which they just cut by a third).  If the stadium capacity is 56K, and the average home attendance is, say, 40K, and ignoring buses and differential pricing for season ticket holders, and considering carpools, maybe the average number of paying parking customers is, I dunno – 10,000?  That could be way off, but let’s use that round number for the sake of argument.  If 10,000 drivers pay $10 each for 81 home games, that totals to $8.1 milliion.  That’s a lot less that the $14M lease, so 10,000 must be an underestimate.  If it’s 20K cars per game, the revenue goes up to $16.2M.  Even if my guesses are way off, the order of magnitude is probably correct

    Hmm, so the $14M lease probably accounts for roughly the expected parking revenue.  Since the new owners shell out that $14M whether 0 cars use the lot or 56,000 cars do, and since money is fungible, that means that more paying parkers means more money for the team to spend on things other than deferred payments to McCourt.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      “So really, another way to think about this is that the $14M/yr lease is
      really just a deferred part of the purchase price.  …  The
      alternative to the lease agreement would have been an even larger
      up-front payment ”

      This nails it as far as I’m concerned.

    • Greg Hao

      Is McCourt taking all $14MM?  I would assume that the $150MM that entities related to GBM bought would also entitle them to 50% of the $14MM in parking lot leases.

  • Anonymous

    Is anyone here trying to get a job with the Dodgers?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      So you’re questioning my integrity? That’s bold of you, “16883.”

      • Anonymous

        Not at all, that is beyond question. I don’t always agree with you but there is no doubt of your honesty and honor. In this case I do happen to agree with you. It was a legitimate question that stands alone. Whenever a large company changes hands, there are probably dozens of jobs vacated or created and several people here, other than yourself, who could fill them. If I were Guggenheim, I’d hire you right now to replace Colletti… No slur intended.

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          Ah – well, I appreciate the recommendation, and sorry on my end for the misunderstanding.

    • Anonymous

       I think he’s just trying to give a fair shake to the new owners in a golden rule type way rather than searching for reasons to brand them the “new mcCourts”. 

  • Anonymous

    “Guggenheimerians”  <–made my eyes and brain pause and mentally laughed on the inside a bit.

    Anyways, like a few other commenters I saw the latimes headline, my blood pressure rose; I held off on the impulse to read it when I saw Simers name attached to the work.  I mosied on over to DT, read Jon's summary as my blood pressure slowed and my brain engaged (and my negattive feelings disengaged) into the explanation.  My day is no longer ruined.

    DT saved the rest of my day today.

  • http://www.mythphile.com/ Blue-eyed Gal (Ellen)

    You pretty much summarize my feelings, Jon. I wish to goodness that Torre’s group had stayed in, and that Selig hadn’t caved in and given McCourt a huge payout and a part-time interest in anything Dodger Blue.
    But it happened. We’re stuck with it. I’ll give the new ownership group time to demonstrate their aims and commitment, although that was a bad first step. But we knew about it *before the season started*. What’s the big surprise now?Before the season started, on the day the sale was announced, I wrestled with my conscience. I have participated in the boycott since 2009, since I really did NOT like some of the revelations that came out about the way both McCourts were misusing funds. I watched every game  – every game, good and bad — with Vin or whoever was calling the road games — but would not put a penny into the Dodgers myself until the McCourts weren’t owners.

    After the sale, I bought my old ticket package. I wasn’t fooling myself. Some of that money was going to go to rent that the Dodgers are now paying to Frank McCourt. But it was time to support the team and move forward, warily, to see what the new ownership is doing. In general, the owner shouldn’t matter to us as much as the team on the field, unless the owners do something we *really* cannot permit our money to support. (After all, our money is supporting a bunch of overpaid entertainers while teachers are getting laid off; it’s not like that’s the greatest use of our money, either).

    As for the parking lots: technically, no, parking fees won’t make a lick of difference; McCourt gets paid whether or not we park there. But in my case, I feel like making a symbolic point. The parking lots are still partially “his.” I want no part of McCourt. It won’t make a financial difference, except as a statement: I support the Dodgers, but I object to Frank McCourt having any remaining part of the Dodgers, even the lots. So I’m avoiding those lots. I realize that my tickets will go towards paying the lease, but I just… feel that boycotting the lots makes clear that we STILL wish he were gone, while allowing us to go to the games.

    So, it’s the train for me. I usually get the 20-game Sunday package, because I like the slightly more mellow and Nancy Bea atmosphere, but as a bonus, the games end early enough that I don’t have to worry about missing the train home.

    (And as a side benefit, if the conductor’s not going to collect my ticket during the whole of an hour long train ride, then I’m not going to feel any guilt about reusing the ticket! It’s starting to look a little dogeared after 3 games, but oh, well.) 

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. says that Scott Van Slyke has been called up.

    http://www.truebluela.com/2012/5/9/3010374/scott-van-slyke-dodgers

    • Anonymous

      Didn’t know Rivera was hurting.  I would have guessed Hairston needed time to heal.

  • Anonymous

    While we can debate the “lie” aspect to death, I don’t believe Johnson did it intentionally.  As Chick would say, “no harm, no foul.”  Johnson’s intent was to reassure the fan base that a new group was in charge.  I believe him.
     
    Bigger question about the whole issue, why would I care.  So the owners give revenue to Frank, I root for the team on the field.  I expect the ownership group to keep the team on the field competitive.  I didn’t think McCourt did a good job of this, but I certainly maintained my loyalty to the players and coaching staff.  I root for the Dodgers; I don’t overtly root for the Guggenheim Group and I didn’t personally root for the McCourts.    If parking revenues end up affecting the ability to put a competitive team on the field, then it becomes a problem; but I just don’t see that happening.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    Thanks for writing this Jon, somebody needed to. I believe anybody reading the facts throughout the process would know Frank was still getting his lease money, but it’s easier to read headlines and repeat sensationalist opinions. And I don’t think it was a PR gaffe to not spell out this point in the press conference, why would the new owners want to bring up and reiterate the fact that Frank gets money for owning the lots? Seems like a good move to me. So I’ll continue to go to the ballpark and give my $10 to park knowing it goes to the new guys and hopefully will help fund a better future for our Dodgers.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Tempest, teapot. If the Guggenheim group suddenly did a sale/leaseback of the stadium to McCourt, then I’d be looking for my pitchfork.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    This just in: Adam Kennedy is batting second tonight while AJ Ellis is still hitting eighth. Why Donnie, why?

    • Anonymous

      Kennedy having a roster spot a much bigger travesty

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman
    • Anonymous

      Johnson sure is getting a lot of face time for a 3% owner.  Not sure what that means, just an observation.

      • Greg Hao

        Magic Johnson was added to be the face/mouthpiece of the new ownership group…

  • Anonymous

    The creator of this gif should be up for a Pulitzer:
    http://t.co/J8EhD1uz

    • Anonymous

      very clever

    • Casey Barker

      Hilarious.  Love the pics of Don and Bruce smiling at each other.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmier matthew mier

    One thing I took away from the press conference was that the owners felt that development of the parking lot would occur way into the future. Possibly after the team has been successful for a few years and the new owners are seen in a very favorable view. Then at that time being in business with McCourt wouldnt be as big of an issue to fans. 

  • Anonymous

    I think developing the Dodger Stadium parking lot will be an extraordinarily difficult undertaking for anyone.

    The neighborhood didn’t like it when Peter O’Malley tried it. Why would those same people change their minds now? I would guess the majority of people who live in areas of L.A. affected by Dodger Stadium traffic hate the Dodgers, no matter who owns them.

    Just like people who live around the Rose Bowl hate UCLA games.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4NP3AUT7UOS75IM2XKIIT6OXBE Peter

    This shouldn’t be news to anyone.  It has been obvious for many months that McCourt would keep the parking lots — once he lost his fight in bankruptcy court to auction off the TV rights, his last real chance to keep the team, his strategy shifted to hanging on to the land around the stadium.  It’s why he transferred the property title in the first place, and Selig’s OK of that move made it highly unlikely the Dodgers would ever get the lots back. 
    This meant that new ownership would have to make an accommodation with McCourt — the notion that they could just wave more money at him and he would go away was just wishful thinking.  We will just have to take solace in the fact that McCourt no longer makes any decisions that affect the team, and hope that Guggo’s plan is to wait the slimeball out.

    • Anonymous

      No they didn’t have to make an “accommodation” with McCourt. Guggenheim’s bid was much higher than the other two finalists (whose bids included 100% of the lots). Frank was on a deadline. He would have gone with the Guggenheim bid had it included the lots. They made a bad deal and should at least be completely honest about it. Simmers was absolutely right about McCourt before anyone else. We have a duty to be skeptical. Otherwise we’re no better than Jim Hill.

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

         ”He would have gone with the Guggenheim bid had it included the lots.”

        There’s nothing to indicate that this is the case.

        “Simmers was absolutely right about McCourt before anyone else.”

        Not before me.

  • http://twitter.com/J_CARTER88 Jerry Ramos

    finally someone who gets it, THANK YOU Jon! the latimes bashing is getting old.

  • Casey Barker

    I want them fired!  Everyone of them!  Magic lied, he must fry.

  • Anonymous

    If I were the buyer and I wanted to develop the parking lots I might be interested in investing with someone with a Billion dollars in their pocket and a hook in their mouth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

    Why is there such irrationality on the small issue of McCourt having a share of the parking lot lease money? I support any number of businesses every day: the donut shop, the local bar, various restaurants, the dry cleaner, etc. For all I know, I’m supporting numerous cocaine habits, prostitution rings, or independent militias. The point is…I don’t know and I don’t care…and those activities are ILLEGAL and cause damage to society. The obsession with McCourt’s involvement with a relatively trivial part of organizational property is absolutely juvenile. He was a bad owner and a cause of great frustration…but as far as I know did nothing jail-worthy. Let’s save our righteous indignation for things that really matter, folks.

    • Anonymous

      Based on this, I’m not sure I trust my local donut shop anymore, but I certainly can’t argue that you have driven the point home very well.

    • Anonymous

      I really want to eat the donuts in your neighborhood now….

    • Greg Hao

      Precisely right.  There are people that won’t be mollified unless Frank McCourt is tarred and feathered.  It’s just childish.

  • http://profiles.google.com/michaelgreen327 Michael Green

    Dodger fans are understandably concerned about any ownership group not named O’Malley after the previous disasters.  That said, we also need to give the new group a chance, and most seem willing to do so.  As for Simers, et al., there always has been an unfortunately marked tendency among some local sportswriters to make a mountain out of a molehill or make a molehill out of a mountain.  Years of trying not to read Simers and Plaschke have made that abundantly clear.

  • Anonymous

    Mmmmmmmmmm

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • Anonymous

    Excellent post Jon. But as a fan of my beloved Dodgers I could care less what Maddeus or Simer thinks.

  • Anonymous

    Your protestations to the contrary, this article sure sounds like you’re making excuses for the new ownership group. My family made a sacrifice last year and boycotted to remove McCourt for the long term benefit of the franchise. Those of us who made that sacrifice deserve absolute transparency, candor, and honesty. That’s not what were getting so far and I hope that Simers will continue to demand some straight answers. That is the proper role of a vigorous and skeptical media.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      You’re not the only one who boycotted McCourt.  I’m not saying don’t ask questions. I just don’t see what happened last week as a big deal.  I’m not trying to make excuses – I’m just calling it as I see it.  The new owners and McCourt are tied together on the land surrounding the stadium.  It’s not news.

      Be as skeptical as you want about what’s going to happen with the franchise. I’m not assuming anything is guaranteed.

  • Anonymous

    John — here is what some are calling a lie — and i dont know how you can come up with any excuse for this. I would be interested in your response. This is verbatim from the news conference — “and he (mccourt) doesn’t get a yearly rental fee for the lots at all?” Here is Magic’s response — “No.” — so the owners WERE asked specifically about rental — in your post jon you suggest the owners were never asked a specific question (“so who is more guilty of giving the wrong impression about McCourt’s connection to the parking? The Guggenheim group, or the members of the press who misreport the connection?”) Would you agree that the owners WERE asked specifically about a rental fee and they said flat-out no?

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    “and he (mccourt) doesn’t get a yearly rental fee for the lots at all?”

    I haven’t seen that quote anywhere. Not in any of the stories by Shaikin, Shelburne, Maddeus, Simers or myself. It doesn’t come up in a Google search. Can you point me to where that was?

    • Anonymous

      it is in that back and forth just before magic says — im 6 foot 9……do you have a tape of the news conference?

      • Anonymous

        did you find it jon?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vashkan Anthony Forkush

    Wow. This is certainly not what I meant when I probed you, Jon, to see if you had any opinions about the ownership group. I was much more interested in an examination of HOW these things came to pass, such as the last minute deal by the Magic group, mere hours before the scheduled auction, preventing the Cohen and Kroenke groups from a vigorous response.  What I am most interested in examining is who owns the Dodgers? Where is the money coming from? The McCourt land involvement is a micro-gram in a much larger issue of liquidity, particularly when pension funds are involved, which seem to have been a significant concern for MLB. The hemming and hawing of the owners regarding ownership share is a story, that’s all I’m saying. We know that Magic has perhaps a 3% interest in the team, yes? Obviously, he is not the owner. The principal owner continues to be identified as Walter. But, is he? What if he is fired by Guggenheim, for some unforeseen reason? Are the purported $127 Billion in assets still his? Surely not. All I’m saying is that without transparency, or at least the perception of it, the group appears stealthy. If its walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it just might be an Enron duck.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      That’s really a job for Shaikin.  

  • Anonymous

    Hey Jon. I enjoy your blog, and I appreciate your take. But a couple corrections. I never said or implied or suggested that McCourt’s lease revenue goes up or down based on parking revenues. In fact, I said quite clearly, back on March 29 that “those payments don’t go up or down based on parking revenues.” Maybe you missed that one, but I don’t know how I could have said it more clearly.

    Second, it was not certain until Shaikin’s report on Friday night that McCourt would continue to receive those lease payments. That’s what made Shaikin’s report news. You seem to think there was never any doubt on this question. In fact the new owners never once acknowledged the lease payments until Shaikin’s report, despite being asked repeatedly about them, which left the issue in doubt. (As to your contention that there was never any report that McCourt wouldn’t receive compensation for the use of the parking lots, you may have missed the March 29 ESPN report, entitled: “McCourt gets no parking lot money,” which a lot of people believed to be true at the time.)

    So: Journalists are asking about the parking. They’re aware that McCourt doesn’t directly collect the parking revenue — duh — but they’re also aware that there’s this parking lot lease, whereby he could well be compensated for the use of his land for parking. But there’s doubt about it, because they won’t answer the question. So that’s the issue that needs clarifying: Does he get the lease payments or not? In that context, Magic Johnson gets up at a press conference and says that McCourt “doesn’t get a dime from the parking,” and he doesn’t know how many times he has to repeat it, and this issue is closed, and McCourt isn’t involved in any shape or fashion, and we’re not talking about McCourt anymore. Well sorry, if you say that, then that is your final answer.

    And that answer is false. He gets 140 million dimes a year, as TJ Simers rightly noted, and that means he IS involved in some “shape” or “fashion.” And just to be clear, that shape or fashion is: The Dodgers pay him $14 million a year. Which they refused to acknowledge until they were forced to.

    You’re free to defend that deal, if you want. But if you want to say there was nothing wrong with the way they talked about it, then you’re backing something that even the Dodgers won’t defend anymore.

    And it’s M-A-D-D-A-U-S.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Gene – first, apologies for the misspelling. 
      Second, I didn’t say there was nothing wrong with the way they talked about the deal. But I didn’t see a lie.  However, I just heard Robert’s clip below. So that does change things. Magic’s asked about the yearly rental fee, and he denies it. 
      I do still think some of what you wrote is problematic. I still don’t agree – at all – that lease money for the land is the same as parking money, which you do in your most recent piece:
      “He also said McCourt would not get any of the parking revenues.” ‘He doesn’t get a dime from the parking,’ Johnson said.”False. In fact, as the Times’ Bill Shaikin reported Friday night, the Dodgers will pay $14 million a year to a company half-owned by McCourt for the privilege of parking cars at the stadium.”
      Whatever you wrote in March, I felt your story greatly confuses this point. Citing the Kipen op-ed in the Times, which specifically operates under the assumption that a boycott will affect McCourt’s pocketbook, adds to that. So does your own call for a boycott of the lots. I realize in your mind, that’s more of a protest statement than a pocketbook statement, but it seems to me you’re leaving a lot of room for misinterpretation. So does your contention that it’s false that McCourt “doesn’t get a dime from the parking.”  He doesn’t. He gets money for land use.   
      You also wrote: “Second, it was not certain until Shaikin’s report on Friday night that McCourt would continue to receive those lease payments. That’s what made Shaikin’s report news. You seem to think there was never any doubt on this question.”

      I’m not saying there wasn’t doubt, but I think the default assumption was that McCourt was owed a lease payment – that was established long ago.  The March 29 ESPN report only speaks to parking revenue, not the lease payment. Again, you sometimes conflate the two in a way that I absolutely do not. Walter said in Ramona’s story that McCourt has an “economic interest in the land,” which to me logically means he’s going to potentially profit from owning that land. Why would anyone reading that quote assume that the lease payment has gone out the window? 

      The 140 million dimes is not parking money. It’s not. It’s money for the lease of the land. It’s money that comes to McCourt even if no cars park at Dodger Stadium. Now, I’m clearly not going to convince you or some others of this definition, but you guys certainly haven’t convinced me of yours.  

      All that being said, the exchange with Magic that Robert passed along is pretty clearly  irresponsible. 

      I’ve never suggested that we shouldn’t bring skepticism to the discussion of Guggenheim or any sports owners. I do, however, get worried about the tendency to hyperventilate over small things, like the McCourt-Johnson photo on Opening Day, or calling Magic a liar when – at least from what I saw in your story and every other story – was a semantics argument. 

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the reply, and thanks for updating your post. I’ve been around the tree several times on the semantic issue — including with Dodgers PR — and at this point I don’t think it’s worth rehashing.

        All I’ll say is that the only reason there’s a semantic debate at all is that Mark Walter & Co. decided they had found a clever way to avoid having to admit that they were paying McCourt $14 million a year, which was, and is, an issue of real concern to a lot of fans. If they had admitted that up front, there wouldn’t be an issue about how to define the word “parking.”

        Even if the press hadn’t caught on to that dodge — which they did, fairly quickly — and even if Walter & Johnson had been able to thread the needle at the press conference and avoid telling an out-and-out lie — which they weren’t — they still ought to be held to a high standard of honesty, especially in light of what Dodger fans have just been through. This wasn’t a deposition. There are no points awarded for clever evasions. It was a press conference, and if they couldn’t be candid, they shouldn’t have held one.

        Anyway. If you’re conceding that Magic wasn’t telling the truth — which was my whole point — then I don’t think we really have anything left to argue about.

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          While conceding that we’d like to see a higher standard, I don’t know of too many ceremonial, introductory press conferences that feature pure candor as opposed to bombastic spin. 

  • Anonymous

    jon — and everyone else — you can hear here that Magic rejects ANY SUGGESTION (and even gets a bit upset) when asked IF MCCOURT GETS ANY RENTAL on the parking lots — I hope Jon admits this quote does make it clear that the Dodgers were at least misleading and possibly lying

    http://www.hark.com/clips/nwmyxlcvcn-magic-on-parking

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      OK, that’s pretty cut and dry, I concede. 

      • Anonymous

        i appreciate your comment jon – you are being fair – i am surprised others have not picked up on it

        • Anonymous

          john i hope you find a way to make sure your many followers know about this quote — i know most people do not read the comments

  • Anonymous

    Not a great result, but they made Lincecum throw lots of pitches that inning.

  • Anonymous

     A gift run.

  • Anonymous

    The bases-loaded triple may be the game’s most exciting play.

  • Anonymous

    I expect there will be some similarities in the way in which Guggenheim and McCourt do business, but the main differences will be in their respective characters. I think it was Frank and Jamie’s character (or lack of same) which so many of us found offensive. To some degree the character manifests itself in how one does business.

  • Anonymous

    Would Mark Reynolds be any improvement over Uribe?