No sign of Epstein in Chicago

Posted Oct. 18, 2011, at 6:15 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 18, 2011, at 11:12 p.m.

CHICAGO — There is still no sign of Theo Epstein in Chicago.

It has been more than a week since word leaked that Epstein was headed to Chicago to join the Cubs after nine years with the Boston Red Sox.

It may take even longer for an official announcement.

Major League Baseball prohibits major news announcements during the World Series, which kicks off Wednesday in St. Louis as the Cardinals host the Texas Rangers in Game 1.

A person familiar with the negotiations has told The Associated Press that Epstein has agreed to a contract with the Cubs with a year left on his general manager contract in Boston. The person says compensation issues must be worked out, speaking on condition of anonymity because there has not been an announcement.

Two years ago, a news conference was held to announce that the Ricketts family had acquired the Cubs from Tribune Co. But even that came on a travel day for the World Series teams and it involved a multimillion-dollar deal.

On a cloudy Tuesday near Wrigley Field, the grounds crew was readying the playing field for the winter ahead while other workers repaired lights in the grandstand. No news conference, and no word on Epstein.

The Cubs have declined comment. Red Sox owner John Henry said last week that he wanted Epstein to stay with the Red Sox, while acknowledging the stress of being the Red Sox GM.

If and when Epstein arrives in Chicago, he will have his work cut out for him. The club has chewed up and spit out managers and general managers for decades.

Can Epstein be the guy to end the mind-boggling run of mediocrity, ineptitude, bad luck, strange karma and missed chances, one that has reached 103 years without a World Series winner? Chairman Tom Ricketts apparently thinks so and is ready to hand the 37-year-old Epstein a five-year deal reportedly worth $15 million to $18.5 million.

Epstein was running the Red Sox when they won it all in 2004 to end an 86-year World Series championship drought. And Boston added another title, with Epstein at the helm, three years later.

Once Epstein departs, the Red Sox are expected to announce assistant GM Ben Cherington as his replacement. The Red Sox, who collapsed in September and missed the playoffs for a second straight year, must also find a new manager to replace Terry Francona.

One of the first chores in Chicago is the future of manager Mike Quade, who piloted the team to a 71-91 record in his first full season. He has another year left on his deal.

McCourts OK divorce deal

LOS ANGELES — Frank and Jamie McCourt have reached a settlement in a costly and nasty feud over control of the Los Angeles Dodgers, paving the way for a showdown in bankruptcy court between the embattled team owner and Major League Baseball.

The deal was struck between the former couple, but the terms will not be released, according to a joint statement Monday from Frank and Jamie McCourt. A person familiar with the settlement who requested anonymity because it’s not meant to be public told The Associated Press that Jamie McCourt would receive about $130 million, a figure first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

As part of the agreement, Jamie McCourt will withdraw her opposition to the proposed sale of the Dodgers’ media rights, a move her ex-husband says would alleviate his financial woes. Instead, she will file a motion supporting the process, according to the statement.

“We’re looking forward to having her support of the Dodgers plan as the bankruptcy case goes forward,” said Victoria Cook, one of Frank McCourt’s attorneys.

A Los Angeles judge still has to sign off on the agreement, but once he does the settlement effectively ends the divorce saga that began two years ago after Frank McCourt fired Jamie McCourt as the Dodgers’ CEO.

In a separate statement, a spokesman for Jamie McCourt said she was willing to accept a settlement, even if it meant giving up her interest in the Dodgers, “if a fair resolution were possible.”

“That has now been achieved through the cooperation of everyone involved and Jamie looks forward to moving on and focusing on new opportunities,” the statement said.

The divorce case has been placed on hold until a bankruptcy court in Delaware determines the fate of the team. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday and a judge will consider dueling motions over four days starting Oct. 31.

The agreement removes Jamie McCourt, who had asked the divorce court to order the Dodgers sold, as an obstacle in Frank McCourt’s bid to keep ownership by selling team television rights.

“I think this may be a strategically sensible decision for her,” said Scott Altman, a law professor at the University of Southern California. “If he (Frank McCourt) gets $130 million out of bankruptcy, it’s hers. It reduces her risk because she doesn’t have to share proceeds from the bankruptcy case.”

The settlement now allows Frank McCourt to focus on his battle with MLB, which is seeking permission from a bankruptcy judge to file a reorganization plan that calls for McCourt to sell the Dodgers.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined comment about the settlement.

“I think they want to show the world they are a united front,” said Los Angeles-based family law attorney Lisa Meyer Helfend. “They are overtly showing MLB and other detractors that they are reasonable “

Attorneys for Frank McCourt have argued a media rights sale is the best path out of bankruptcy for one of baseball’s most storied franchises.

The McCourts previously reached a divorce settlement on June 17, but the deal was contingent on approval of a proposed television contract between the Dodgers and Fox. That deal would have given Jamie McCourt $100 million and she would retain the former couple’s six luxurious homes.

But baseball Commissioner Bud Selig rejected the 17-year TV contract with Fox, reported to be worth up to $3 billion, noting in part that almost half of an immediate $385 million payment would have been diverted from the Dodgers.

On June 27, Frank McCourt took the Dodgers into bankruptcy.

Jamie McCourt subsequently lined up behind Major League Baseball and Fox in asking the bankruptcy court to reject Frank McCourt’s bid to auction Dodgers television rights.

If Frank McCourt were to prevail in bankruptcy court, it’s unclear whether the judge would allow him to tap into the TV money to pay the settlement. It’s also unknown whether the proceeds from the sale of the team would even exceed $130 million.

Some observers said one of the reasons behind the settlement may be the legal bills that have amassed over the past two years. The former couple has racked up more than $20 million in fees, according to court documents.

“This ends it,” said Los Angeles family attorney Robert Nachshin. “They stop paying divorce lawyers and she gets $130 million.”

MLB had assumed control of the club’s day-to-day operations in mid-April before the team filed for bankruptcy. Former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer was appointed to monitor the team on behalf of Selig, who said he took the action because he was concerned about the team’s finances and how the Dodgers are being run.

Last year, the McCourts went through a highly publicized trial that focused on a postnuptial marital agreement they had signed in 2004.

A Los Angeles judge ruled in December that the marital agreement which gave Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers was invalid, clearing the way for Jamie McCourt to seek half the team under California’s community property law.

A group backed by Chinese government-owned investment banks had made a $1.2 billion offer to buy the Dodgers, but Frank McCourt has repeatedly said he’s not interested in selling the team.

The couple, who were married in 1979, has four grown sons.

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