Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Commissioner Digs In

Well.  That didn't take long.  Yesterday, Major League Baseball, acting by and through Commissioner Bud Selig filed its Objection to the Dodgers' Application for Interim Financing.  We'll get to the Objection in a minute.  First, the boring procedural stuff.

Monday, I told you that the Dodgers had filed bankruptcy and that they had filed an application for Interim Financing.  Such an application is just what it sounds like.  When a Debtor-in-Possession or DIP, files for bankruptcy protection, it often (in the case of a large corporation) has a "white knight" that it approached pre-filing to arrange to fund the business.  Indeed, some very sophisticated lenders will require a business to file an 11 as a condition of making the loan.  Why?  Because bankruptcy stops all collection efforts by the creditors. 

But the DIP can't just get the loan money and fund the business.  It has to get permission of the Court to obtain the financing.  Here, the Dodgers requested approval of the loan it had negotiated and an initial draw of 50 million against it in order to make tomorrow's payroll.  They requested interim financing until the hoped for Final Order Confirming a Plan of Reorganization.

MLB objected.  They reasons for the Objection are basically three-fold.  1) They allege that Frank McCourt, the former owner of the Dodgers siphoned off millions of dollars and misappropriated them to his personal use; 2) Oh, and by the way, we took McCourt out of baseball and installed a monitor to run the club.  He can't requisition paper clips without the monitor's approval much less put the Dodgers in bankruptcy.  I confess that I wondered about that one too and; 3) MLB is ready to make a loan for Interim Financing on much more favorable terms, will not charge a fee or place a lien on the assets.

The response of the Dodgers is that the decision about who to approach for financing is vested in the "sound business judgment" of the DIP, and yeah, the rates and terms of such financing is typically at murderous rates and terms because DIPs are typically in acute financial distress.  Secondly, they say, the Dodgers are not required to do business with someone who is trying to take over the business.  And thirdly (thirdly?) we don't believe the Commissioner has the authority under baseball's Constitution to take over a member baseball club. 

The Judge granted the Application for Interim Financing.  The report is that MLB agreed to it and I believe that.  They had no choice.  There was no time for a trial on the Objection.  The payroll has to be made.  All of this will be tried down the road.

So what's next?  ESPN reported today that MLB will try to terminate the Dodgers franchise and then take it over in order to sell it to somebody else.  Eventually there will have to be a ruling on the issue of a) whether the Commissioner of Baseball has the authority to take over a team.  Every Commissioner since the time of Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis has viewed the Commissioner's power to act "in the best interests of baseball" to be damn near plenary in nature. 

So I guess the threshold question before moving too far forward is who is entitled to run the Dodgers?  Is it Frank McCourt?  Or the monitor appointed by Bud Selig?  Oh, let's not forget Jamie McCourt.  She contends the Dodgers are marital property to be divvied up by the Divorce Court Judge in Los Angeles.  Look for her to intervene in the bankruptcy before too long.

This is all fascinating stuff.  I will continue to monitor-pardon the expression-the activity in the case.  And in the next installment we'll talk about McCourt's acquisition of the Dodgers and how MLB is partially to blame for the current mess.

Stay tuned.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Frank McCourt Goes High And Tight

The Los Angeles Dodgers filed a Petition under Title 11 of the United States Code today.  To put it in layman's terms, otherwise widely known as English, the Dodgers filed a Chapter 11 in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

First some background. Chapter 11 is a business reorganization.  You may recall that Chrysler and GM both reorganized under this provision of the Code.  You may ask why Delaware?  And the answer would be that many, if not most, major corporations incorporate under the laws of Delaware because of Delaware's corporate-friendly organization and tax laws.  Chapter Elevens are time consuming and expensive.  And in my experience with smaller corporate debtors, rarely successful in reorganizing the business.

Some more background.  In 2004, the Dodgers were acquired by Frank H. McCourt, who made all of his money in the parking business in Boston.  His wife Jamie will figure into these chronicles soon enough.  Long story short:  In 2010, the Dodgers started experiencing what the Emergency Motion for Interim Financing dryly refers to as "cash flow difficulties."  According to the Motion this was due to a decline in attendance and  failure to make the playoffs.  Oh.  That and a whopping 22 million in deferred compensation to current and former players.

In April Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig ousts McCourt and appoints a monitor to run the Dodgers.  The Motion refers to Selig's authority to do this as "questionable."

McCourt cuts a deal with Fox Sports that will get him well financially. Here's where Jamie comes in.  As if the Dodgers don't have enough drama in sufficient supply, the McCourts are embroiled in an exceedingly nasty divorce.  One of the issues in the divorce is whether the Dodgers are marital property along with the numerous other entities created by McCourt.  Indeed, a hearing on the issue is set for August.  Or was until the bankruptcy filing.  Anyway, part of the deal with Fox was that if Jamie McCourt prevailed in divorce court on her theory that the Dodgers were marital property, she would get 100 million (Yes.  You read that right.) which would be partially funded by the loan.  The other part would come from a loan from Fox to Frank.

Selig doesn't approve the deal because of the proposed payment to Jamie.  That, and the McCourts have run the business like their own personal candy store.  The Dodgers are officially broke by June 30 if they don't close with Fox Sports.  So off to Bankruptcy Court we go.

Which if nothing else, will serve to piss off everybody in Major League Baseball.  Let me count the ways.

1) The Debtor in case 11-12010 isn't Wally's Pizza.  It's the Los Angeles frigging Dodgers.  One of the crown jewels of professional sports.  Broke the color barrier with Jackie Robinson.  Won 6 World Series.  Created everlasting enmity in Brooklyn when the franchise moved to LA in 1962.  This is a black eye on the sport.  Which leads to......

2) The other owners will be pissed especially the Chicago White Sox to whom the Dodgers owe 3.5 million.  This filing is a black eye for baseball. 

3)  The Commissioner will be pissed.  His powers to act "in the best interests of baseball" are damn near plenary.  Until they run into the Automatic Stay provisions of 11 U.S.C. 362.  If MLB wanted to sell the Dodgers, no can do without a fight in Bankruptcy Court. 

4)  The Major League Baseball Players Union will be pissed.  Most of the Dodgers' unsecured creditors are current and former players.  They owe Manny Ramirez @ 22 million.  They even owe Marquis Grissom @ 3 million.  He played for then what?  A year?  These insane contracts were made possible by a collective bargaining agreement.  Expect the player's union to bring hell if the Dodgers try to impair (again, in English the word would be screw) these claims. 

5)  Speaking of collective bargaining agreements, ask the United Auto Workers how their contracts held up in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies. 

I'm just getting started good. 

I may have no life.  But it is for these moments that I indeed live. 


Thursday, June 23, 2011

AWOL Again

This is becoming a habit.  I know.

Will be back next week sometime.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father's Day Feeling

As I have said in the past, I like Father's Day.  Later on today, I will hit the sales and buy stuff for me on sale.  It's not like I'm cheating.  I can't stand Christmas or Valentine's Day.  For me, participation in either of the latter civic rituals is complete hypocrisy.  But I need a new golf bag.  I know where I can get one on sale today.  Somebody is going to buy it.  It might as well be me whether or not I have any "heirs of the body" as the old property law cases used to say.

Besides, most Dads I know would love to treat Father's Day as no big deal.  Here's a true story. Back in April I submitted a essay on Father's Day to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  My editor at that time was a devout Roman Catholic father of a little girl whom he adores.  Here is the following e-mail exchange.

Editor: " This is great.  I want to use it."

Me: "Cool."

Editor: "When is Father's Day anyway?"

Me: "You're asking me?"

Editor: " Yeah well.  It's no big deal to those of us who are actually fathers.  I would just as soon be left alone."

Me: "But that won't happen will it?"

Editor: "Oh no."

Anyway, no, there are no heirs of my body of which I am even remotely aware.  And that's OK.  I assumed that I would be a father at one point in time but it just never worked out.  But on the other hand, I am in a position to do some things with my life and what little money I have scraped together that I would not be able to do if I had to worry about the college fund.  Which certainly is in line with my essentially narcissistic personality.

My memories of my own father are kind of diffuse at this point.  After all, by now he's been dead longer than I knew him.  I know it's different with girls and their daddies, but I suspect Hugh's daughters will experience at least some of the same disconnect when they consult the memory banks when they are in their fifties as well.  Human nature is what it is.  And 34 years, to use my example, is a long time to bear witness.

But what of my father?  Here's what I remember.  He was quiet.  He was shy to the point of social ineptitude.  Looking back at some of the weirder aspects of his personality through the modern prism of diagnosis I wonder whether he had ADD or Asperger's.  He was the kind of guy that could teach thermodynamics and yet fully believe that no one could see him from the outside as he passed by a window in his skivvies.  Which, as one of my shrink friends who evaluates children would say, sounds kind of "aspergery" to me.  Then again, maybe I come by it honest.  My father always struck me as a lonesome person who had something of an impaired ability to relate to others.  As for me, I am not lonesome to the slightest degree and I play well with others.  And yet, for the most part I am the most content when I am by myself.

Maybe I'm a little more aspergery than I care to know.

One of my aunts maintained that he was a drunk.  I don't know about that.  I only saw Dad real bad drunk once that I know of.  It was not pretty and is a story for another day.  Sometimes it takes awhile for dust to settle.  That time has come.  But this is Father's Day.  Today is not the day.  In any event, I do know he was addicted to nicotine and this is why his heart blew up at 53. 

Bottom line.  He was a good person.  He worked hard.  He wore the uniform.  He faithfully did his duty in harm's way.  He was a good provider. He loved his sons.  Like most marriages his had its up and downs.  And from what I could tell from my perspective of limited discernment as a young person, the downs were practically Wagnerian in their scope and intensity.  But over time I have come to see just as bad if not worse.  And he made sure that there were investments in place that were so sufficiently sound that only recently have they been liquidated pursuant to his spouse's Will. 

My father and I clashed a lot toward the end.  In my junior year at Hendrix I began the process of applying for law schools.  I applied to schools all over the country.  While he grudgingly paid the application fees for Vanderbilt, Tulane, SMU and Arkansas, he made no secret of the fact that he wasn't going to pay for me to go to school out of the state.  Which struck me as an odd position for somebody who up until then had routinely disparaged higher education in Arkansas.  Eventually I figured it out.  He didn't want me to leave. 

Unfortunately, he left before I did.

If I am doing the math right in my head, which I am probably not having still no aptitude for math or science which he found unfathomable, Buck Bowen would have been 87 as of this writing.  Most likely, he would not have lived that long given his chain smoking ways along with the genetic predisposition to coronary artery disease that recent testing revealed he bequeathed to guess who?

But I wish he had been around after I returned to Arkansas after getting my law degree from The Tulane University of Louisiana.  I wish we could have played golf.  Maybe we could have worked some of this shit out on the driving range.  Maybe not. 

I wish he could have seen that I turned out OK.  I wish I could have said "Thank you."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Not A Morality Play. Still, Karma Is A Bitch.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to say "I told you so" after the Miami Heat and the much-ballyhooed Big Three of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were dispatched in the NBA Finals in 6 games by the Dallas Mavericks, the final win taking place on the Heat's home floor.  So by all means let's do it:

Particularly, I direct your attention to the quote from legendary tough guy Paul Silas who at the time LeBron told a rapt America that he would "taking [his] talents to the South Beach" was telling ESPN Radio that James didn't have much of a killer instinct.  Silas was LeBron's first NBA coach.  So he should know whereof he spoke.  And LeBron's disappearing act late in games in the Finals, although he played pretty well last night, seems to bear that out.

Text from a friend Saturday: "Why can't LeBron make change for a dollar bill?"

"No 4th quarter."

While it is a safe bet that nobody outside of the Sunshine State was rooting for the Heat in this series, let's not make a morality play out of it.  Sure, LeBron's (and ESPN's) stupid decision to announce that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in prime time during a contrived "special" entitled "The Decision" in retrospect made LeBron, a guy who up until that point was not particularly known for hubris or arrogance, seem steeped in it.  And when James, Bosh and Wade were introduced to the Miami fans strutting around in their white home unis as if the NBA Title was a foregone conclusion it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.  Myself included.

But let's not forget that, again, these guys didn't have bad reputations for being knuckleheads prior to that night.  And they still don't. Sure, Wade and James looked like a couple of punks for mocking Dirk Nowitski's sinus infection after a shootaround after Game 5 which Dirk played while running a 101.  Hey, assholes!  You lost!  Shut up.  But still, there are far worse citizens in the NBA than these 3.

Also, James and Bosh's decision to go to Miami was a business decision they were entirely free to make.  Indeed, depending on what kind of labor agreement the NBA Player's Association and the League can hammer out after the lockout-you do know there's gonna be a lockout right?-free agents will continue to essentially collude with each other to join teams that they believe gives them the best chance to win a title.  Somewhere Curt Flood is looking down and smiling.

And let's give the Mavericks some credit.  Dirk Nowitski had a series for the ages.  Jason Terry and Jason Kidd shot the Heat out in games 5 and 6.  Shawn Marion (who has to be carrying an AARP card by now)and Tyson Chandler held their own with Bosh.  They were quite literally the better team last night, scoring 27 points off of highly unsure Heat ball handling.  Note to Erik Spolestra:  who thought it was a good idea to have LeBron bring the ball up the middle on the fast break.?  I'm sure that it wasn't you.  And if so, I'm sure Pat Riley was not impressed.  Also, your team's free throw shooting was generally atrocious especially in light of the the Maverick's excellence at the line.  So that's two notes.

So while we don't need to make a morality play out of the victory of the Dallas Mavericks, there is some real satisfaction in seeing the Heat get taken down a peg.  And that tells you everything about what a PR disaster "The Decision" and the events afterwards really were.

Because basically OK guys instantly became the very embodiment of arrogance and hubris.  And the whole country-or at least the part that follows the NBA- pretty much rooted against them in the Finals.  Which is remarkable when you think about it. 

Oh.  And I told you so.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


There will be no MSF tomorrow.  My excellent friend Jim Nelson is coming up from Baton Rouge to play golf with me and my little friends in the Hendrix Warrior Booster Club tournament.  He is a big LSU Tiger booster.  I think it does him some good to see real student athletes that aren't getting paid either over or under the table. 

In any event, I am all jammed up this weekend.  Will return next week. 

Talk amongst yourselves.  Happy Father's Day to all the Dads!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Narcissus Shrugged

I have done some foolish things in my life.  Odds are you have too.  And we have all done things that we would just as soon never finds the light of day.  Maybe they are not very bad things in the great scope of fucking up.  But they are things that might otherwise not reflect entirely well on a reputation for sound judgment and probity that one might hope to attain at a certain station in life.

Like sending a picture of your crotch on Twitter to some girl in Texas.  While you are married.  And a Congressman.

I never did anything that stupid.  Point for me.

I was sitting in a bar in St. Louis back during what I recalll was Bill Clinton's first term.  Like everyone else in there I was transfixed by the breaking news of the Monica Lewinsky scandal that was breaking in on the TV.  The man sitting next to me must have picked up on my Arkansas accent whenever I ordered a refill of my iced tea.  He asked me if I thought that the story might be true.

"No," I said. "Bill Clinton may be many things but he isn't stupid."  Of course, subsequent events proved me completely wrong.  He was that stupid.

At least Clinton had the basic good sense to lie about it. Congressman Weiner led off with the  plausible explanation that his Twitter account had been hacked.  But I have a pretty good bullshit detector after all these years.  And it started going off when Weiner said that he wasn't going to turn it over to the investigators to spare that the taxpayers the expense. After alleging that he, a Member of Congress, had been hacked?  I'm willing to bet that the FBI advised his office that an investigation was not an option which I'm sure started the bullet sized sweat droplets.  Because you do not want the FBI poking around if your story is even remotely hinky.  I refer you again to Bill "I did not have sex with that woman" Clinton.

But what really sent the ole bullshit detector into the red zone was when Weiner stated that he could not say for sure that the image that got transmitted to the girl in Texas was indeed not of him in his skivvies.

I am not a Congressman.  Having said that, there are no pictures of me in the Jos. A. Bank jockey shorts that I favor.  Nor will there ever be.  If anyone ever shows you an image that purports to be me in such scant attire, it is not me.  It might be Congressman Weiner.  But it is not me.

Which leads one to the inescapable question: What kind of an idiot what do something like this?  Isn't being a powerful elected official who happens to be married to a beautiful woman validation enough?  Evidently not.

My take?  Leave it to the Democrats, his wife and his constituents to deal with him.  I know. Nancy Pelosi has called for an ethics investigation.  Undoubtedly the Republicans will demand he be turned over for the criminal equivalent.  Please.  From what I can tell Weiner's behavior, though disgusting, unseemly and juvenile, was not a violation of any criminal laws.  Let this be between his constituents and his wife.  If they can live with it, I can live with it.

Here's another good question for the folks in his District.  Presumably they sent him to Washington to represent them on the major issues of the day.  Health care, the national debt, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  And Congressman Weiner has time to send texts and pictures to some young woman in Texas whose only mistake was contacting an elected official she admired? 

Earth to Anthony:  She admired you for your positions as a public man.  She did not like you as a person.  And now she probably thinks, with some justification, that you are a creep.  Well played.

But back to Bubba.  Weiner would have been better off to haul off and lie like a damn rug.  Just like Clinton did.  Coming clean is just marginally useful as a matter of tactics as he is probably now realizing to his infinite chagrin.

What he should have done was enlist his wife in the defense.  Really. He should have put her up in front of a mic.  And she should have said:

" That doesn't look like my husband's crotch.  Actually, Anthony is much smaller than that."

Bet she would have done it.  Most of the women I know would have done it.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Up On The Rooftop

The sounds of Lance Armstrong level strong woodpeckers overhead are building my new roof.  Read into that what you will.   The roofing crew got here as I left for my white collar job.  They are still here as I type this while drinking wine in the comfort of the air conditioning.

How bourgeois.

And it occurs to me that this little house here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest, sitting here,as I am being my bourgeois self,  drinking wine while Mexicans work 14 hour days in the service of me and the insurance company, is a symbol of the national debate on immigration.

Young men going up and down on the ladders carrying-what?-bags of shingles that weigh a hundred pounds per bag.  In 100 degree heat. 

These guys on the roofing crew are here because nobody else will do this kind of labor.  The "Build the Wall" types are not opposed to the maids, agricultural workers or the guys on my roof.  As far as I can tell, they are opposed to providing government assistance to the children of these people who are "taking jobs away from Americans."

But what should I do?  Ask these guys to produce green cards?

I will do it whenever you ask your Caucasian or African American roofing crew to do the same.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

It wasn't the worst scandal in the history of college football.  I will give The Ohio State University that.  That dubious distinction will forevermore reside with SMU whose players were getting paid in a scheme that reached all the way to the Governor of Texas.  And the NCAA gave their football program "the death penalty" for the first, and I predict the only time.  But it was pretty bad.  Especially after Sports Illustrated went with a story this week that was so damning in its exposure of the utter corruption of Buckeye football and in revealing head coach Jim Tressel to be a pious fraud that Tressel resigned before the article hit the stands.  Resigned without extracting a severance deal from The Ohio State University even.  Which is not only unheard of but is indicative of just high pissed the Buckeye brass was at Tressel.

As most of these things go, it started small.  Before 2-a-days started last season, Tressel got an e-mail from a booster who also happened to be an attorney that had gotten wind of the fact that the FBI was investigating a Columbus tattoo parlor where players liked to hang out.  The investigation also revealed that some, if not most, of these guys had been selling sports memorabilia such as game worn equipment and autographed programs and the like for money or in exchange for getting ink.  Now this was a clear violation of the extra benefit rule, which would conceivably render the players ineligible for the upcoming season.  But this is nickle and dime stuff which likely would have resulted in some lesser penalty if Tressel had acted on this information or told his Athletic Director about it.

Tressel did neither.  But what he did do is he executed the NCAA compliance letter and certified that he knew of no NCAA violations and that his players were eligible to participate in the upcoming season.  Which was, of course, a flat out lie.  And lying to the NCAA is THE cardinal sin in the coaching business. 

Flash forward to December.  The Buckeyes are headed to the Sugar Bowl where they are scheduled to play-guess who?-the Arkansas Razorbacks.  About that time the Department of Justice passes info along to The Ohio State University about a raid it conducted on the tattoo joint in question which confirmed that 6 players had been selling or trading memorabilia.  Tressel, and his supporters, including the President of the school, state that he knew nothing of any of this.  Which was Tressel's second whopper.  Or third since he obviously lied about it to his AD and his President.

The NCAA declares the players involved, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor to be have violated the extra benefit rule.  But it didn't rule them ineligible for the Sugar Bowl.  Rather, they were ruled ineligible for the first 5 games of the NEXT season in the first ruling of its kind in the history of the NCAA.  Armed with the full compliment of players, Ohio States defeats the usually sure handed Razorbacks who evidently caught a fatal case of the butterfingers the day of the game.

In March of this year Tressel 'fesses up.  In what was both an obvious sop to the NCAA and a bid to keep his job, Tressel offers to join the players in the suspension.  By this time Sports Illustrated and local media are sniffing around.  Turns out that this kind of thing had been going on on a widespread basis since 2002.  Suuuure Tressel didn't know.  And so he was histoire by Memorial  Day.  Which was about when the local media revealed that about 50 current and former Buckeyes received sweetheart deals on vehicles from local car dealers. 

Now this situation stinks to high heaven for any of a number of reasons.  An athletic scholarship is a hell of a deal.  Free room and board and tuition.  But since the NCAA won't let the student-athlete work at a job-with some exceptions- during the school year what's a poor kid gonna use for gas money?  Or to take a girlfriend to the movies?  Hell, Rick Majerus got a reprimand from the NCAA when Utah self-reported that he had taken a player out to get a pizza.  This was despite the fact that the kid had just found out that his father had died.  As one of the players interviewed for the SI story said, "Technically we knew if was wrong, but a lot of those guys are from the inner city and we didn't have much, and we had to go on the best we could.  I couldn't call home to ask my mom to help me out."

Schools like Ohio State and Arkansas, and the coaches they employ, make millions off these kids.  And eventually Division I sports is going to have to figure out a way to provide some kind of financial assistance for the kids in the revenue producing sports.  Whether they can figure out a formula that is fair and equitable is not known.  A lot of D-I schools are barely scraping by in trying to support their football programs.  Tulane certainly couldn't afford to provide as lucrative a stipend to the men who wear the Olive and Blue as could LSU.  And could they do it at all without violating Title Nine which mandates equal athletic opportunities for women?  Who knows? 

And lest the NCAA get too high on its horse, remember that it allowed clearly ineligible players to participate in the Sugar Bowl game.  Why?  They won't admit it but a Sugar Bowl without Terrelle Pryor would have hurt ratings.  Its all about the money.

And here's another wrinkle.  The NCAA just laid the wood to Southern Cal, primarily over the Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo episodes.  You can bet that the Trojans-and the PAC 12 (or 27 or whatever it is now)- will give the NCAA unshirted hell if they don't lower the boom on the Buckeyes at least to the extent that they themselves got tossed in the hoosegow.  These are indeed happy days up the road in Ann Arbor. 

All we know now is that Jim Tressel will be raking the leaves this fall instead of roaming the sidelines in his trademark tie and vest. The situation at The Ohio State University will get far worse before it gets better.  And it all started over Jim Tressel covering up for poor kids selling otherwise worthless crap that has value only for the sports obsessed booster types that feed the beast that is Buckeye football.

Read the article on the jump.  Make up your own mind:

Oh.  The "pious fraud" remark with which I led off this post?  There is an incident in the story that put my Hypocrite Meter into the red zone that is usually reserved for politicians and televangelists.  Let me know if you find it and if you concur.