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McCourt has first meeting with Schieffer

McCourt has first meeting with Schieffer

McCourt has first meeting with Schieffer
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers owner Frank McCourt on Friday had his first meeting with Tom Schieffer, the former Texas Rangers president sent by Commissioner Bud Selig this week to monitor operations of the team.

Schieffer also met with general manager Ned Colletti, then was accompanied by Colletti and recently hired MLB official Joe Torre to brief Dodgers players and staff in the clubhouse about Selig's decision to oversee all aspects of the business and day-to-day operations of the club because of financial concerns.

After meeting with Schieffer, McCourt held a series of media interviews to essentially apologize to fans for the drama of the past 18 months.

"I was anxious to get back to L.A. so I could talk to the fans," said McCourt, who met with Selig's representatives in New York on Wednesday.

"One thing I want to say -- I'm sorry. I apologize that my personal life spilled over and affected them. I'm sorry about certain lifestyle decisions I made. I'm sorry if I've been the cause of embarrassment for the community, for the team, for the fans. I'm sorry to my boys, my family, and I apologize how they all have had to endure this."

McCourt said he wanted to make his case sooner, but had been asked by his four sons to keep silent about his divorce from Jamie McCourt, his wife of 29 years and the former CEO of the club.

"They asked me not to speak out, and I was good to my word," McCourt said. "Recently they approached me and told me that now it was okay with them to speak out and defend myself. That's why I'm speaking now, and I will continue to do that.

"I recognized that by not talking about it, some fans may think if I wasn't defending myself, I don't care, or I'm arrogant or weak or I don't care about the fans. Nothing could be further from the truth. I care deeply about the fans, about this team and this community. I made a commitment to my sons, and I took that commitment seriously. But I'm really sorry for what transpired, and my goal and focus is to make amends to the fans and community."

McCourt's problems now, however, are more far-reaching than the divorce and Jamie McCourt's claims to half the value of the ballclub.

McCourt is in a cash crunch that he believes would be solved by a media deal he's reached with FOX for as much as $3 billion. But on Wednesday, he was told by MLB officials that the investigation into the club's finances by Schieffer must be completed before the Commissioner decides whether to approve the FOX deal.

A $30 million personal loan McCourt received earlier this month was used to make Friday's payroll -- with Schieffer having final sign-off. McCourt said he still considers the actions of MLB to be a "seizure" of his business, but Schieffer disagreed.

Asked if Schieffer would have considered it a seizure if MLB had come in and monitored his operation of the Rangers, he said no.

"Major League Baseball has not seized anything," said Schieffer, a lawyer and former U.S. ambassador to Australia and Japan. "Frank McCourt is still owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Commissioner acted under the "best interests of baseball" clause and sent me to do an investigation and monitor the franchise. We're trying to ensure that the difficulties encountered here don't increase and have a bigger impact on the future of the franchise. A seizure is different than what is going on here."

Schieffer said his meeting with McCourt was a good one. Schieffer said there's been a change since McCourt's confrontational tone in Wednesday's press conference.

"He prefers I wasn't here, but I think we've come a long ways in a couple of days here," he said. "He understands better why I'm here and what I'm trying to do."

That comment came as a surprise to McCourt.

"Nothing has changed regarding my position," McCourt said. "I made it clear to him I don't understand his role and responsibilities, and we agreed to talk further. That said, we're going to cooperate because we want to get through this so-called investigation as soon as possible. The investigation is going to show, as we've told Major League Baseball for the better part of a year, that in 2011 the organization had significant cash obligations, and we addressed all of that with this media transaction that is ready to be signed. It should have been closed by the end of last year."

Schieffer said he explained to Colletti that the baseball operations department will continue to operate as it has, but Schieffer will have final sign-off for anything that surpasses the existing budget.

"I had a very good meeting with Ned," he said. "He was unsure. It was the right thing to do."

Schieffer said he will be assisted in his monitoring of the Dodgers by John McHale Jr., MLB's vice president of administration who has held high-ranking roles with Tampa Bay, Colorado and Detroit.

Asked what his exit strategy was, Schieffer said: "We will conduct a full investigation, identify problems, follow through and at some point be satisfied we've got the facts. I'll make a judgment, and report back and tell them about the options."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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