Awful former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt buys French megaclub Olympique de Marseille

Former <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/lad/" data-ylk="slk:Los Angeles Dodgers">Los Angeles Dodgers</a> owner Frank McCourt (Reuters)
Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt (Reuters)

Do you remember Frank McCourt?

Of course you remember Frank McCourt, the Bostonian parking lot baron who was such a reviled Los Angeles Dodgers owner that Major League Baseball pushed him out.

He bought the team and its iconic Dodger Stadium for $330 million in 2004, although he barely used any of his own money — because, as it turned out, he didn’t have all that much of it.

In the next eight years, he and his wife Jamie expensed, drained or wrote off some $108 million from the team to cover four mansions in Malibu and the hills north of Los Angeles, personal expenses such as $150,000 a year in haircuts and other things such as big salaries for their sons, who did almost nothing for the team.

Meanwhile, attendance fell off and McCourt slashed the payroll by a quarter, all while boasting that his team was making the playoffs.

In 2011, the Dodgers were a staggering $433 million in debt during an era when baseball printed money. MLB was so embarrassed that it took over day-to-day operations of the franchise and forced a sale the following year. The McCourts, by then embroiled in a nasty divorce that was becoming one of the most expensive in California history with more than $20 million in legal fees, wound up selling for $2 billion in 2012.

It was an ugly chapter in Dodger and baseball history that everyone would sooner forget.

Anyway, Frank McCourt — that Frank McCourt — was announced as the surprise winner of a de-facto auction to buy historic French club Olympique de Marseille. This 116-year-old club has enormous support in the South of France, has been French champions a record 10 times and won the Champions League in 1992-93, before a bribery scandal and subsequent financial issues troubled the club.

What, exactly, has brought him to buy into one of Europe’s legacy clubs is unclear, but at least McCourt has learned enough from his Dodger disaster to say the right things.



The season before last, OM drew an average of more than 53,000 to its Stade Veldrome per league game. And while that stadium is owned by the City of Marseille, the club ranked 23rd globally in revenue among soccer clubs as recently as the 2012-13 season, with takings of 130 million euros according to Deloitte’s Football Money League.

OM has been restructuring debt and cutting costs for several years now, systematically selling its better players, and it’s quite possible that McCourt and his ownership group — of which he is the face but not the sole member — had to take on some residual debt.

But all the same, with the French league making an aggressive effort to market itself around the world, presumably to nudge the value of its foreign broadcast rights upwards, McCourt may have secured an incredible bargain.

And as such, he may yet again profit handsomely from a sports team that there’s no apparent or good reason for him to own.

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