UPDATE 3-Dodgers fight MLB request for control of team

Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:42pm EDT

Related Topics

* Dodgers ask for delay on motion for control

* Team seeks emergency hearing (Adds Sinatra, other ticketholders request in last three paragraphs)

By Caroline Humer

Sept 27 (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Dodgers fought back on Tuesday against Major League Baseball's attempt to wrest control of the bankrupt baseball team from Frank McCourt, asking a federal court to delay considering the league's requests to sell the team and throw out its lawyers.

The team, which filed for bankruptcy in June, wants to move forward with its own plans to hold an auction of its broadcast rights next month. The auction is expected to help refinance the team and allow McCourt to hold onto it after bankruptcy.

MLB has disputed the team's need for bankruptcy and questioned McCourt's personal interests and spending. The league filed documents with the court last week asking to present its own plan for the team, most likely a quick sale.

MLB followed that up on Monday with a second request, this time seeking to disqualify the Dodgers' attorneys on the basis that they work for McCourt's interests, not the team's.

At the heart of the legal tussle is MLB's contention that its baseball contract rules the team; the Dodgers say bankruptcy law trumps the contract.

A spokesman for MLB declined to comment.

In the documents filed on Tuesday, the Dodgers said the team needs more time to respond to the MLB requests, including the proposed disqualification of Dodgers co-attorneys Dewey & LeBoeuf and Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor.

The team asked for a further delay between a hearing on the disqualification of the attorneys and a hearing on MLB's attempt to terminate the Dodgers' right to present the team's own reorganization plan. The team said it would need time to hire new attorneys if the court agreed with MLB's request to disqualify present counsel.

The Dodgers requested that the bankruptcy court hold an emergency hearing on the team's request by the evening of Sept. 28 in order to decide whether these issues will be part of a bankruptcy hearing scheduled for Oct. 12.

The Dodgers expect the court to address its motion on the broadcast rights sale during that Oct. 12 hearing. The team argued in the court documents that the auction process should continue despite these motions because it will help determine the valuation of the Dodgers, which would be needed whether the broadcast rights or the team itself is sold.

In separate court documents, a group of season ticket holders including surviving relatives of long-time Dodgers fan Frank Sinatra asked on Tuesday for official committee status to represent the interests of the 17,000 season ticket holders during bankruptcy proceedings.

Those interests include making sure that concessions, seat prices and other aspects of the stadium experience are not negatively affected by the bankruptcy, they said.

The committee asked for official recognition -- which means the Dodgers estate would pay its legal bills -- after the government office that oversees bankruptcies denied its request. The Dodgers and the official creditors committee have said that a committee is expensive and unneeded.

The case is in re: Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 11-12010. (Reporting by Caroline Humer in New York; additional reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Derek Caney, John Wallace and Bernard Orr)

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