January 10, 2012

Jenner & Block successfully represented News Corporation’s Fox Sports as litigation counsel in a dispute between the broadcaster and the Los Angeles Dodgers over the planned sale of the team and its assets, including media rights.

Fox Sports regional Prime Ticket sports network has the current contract with the franchise, giving Fox the exclusive right to broadcast the Dodgers’ regular season games through the end of the 2013 baseball season.  The contract also gives Fox the exclusive right, through November 30, 2012, to negotiate a renewed local-media deal with the team.

However, on November 2, 2011, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the team would be sold by April 30, 2012  in an effort to resolve its Chapter 11 reorganization.  As part of that sale, the Dodgers attempted to impair Fox’s exclusive rights to negotiate a renewed media rights deal by asking the Bankruptcy Court to allow the Dodgers to start talking to potential buyers of the TV rights for the 2014 season and beyond in January 2012, over 10 months earlier than allowed under the current contract.   While the Bankruptcy Court granted the Dodgers’ request, that order was almost immediately stayed by the District Court at the request of Fox Sports who also filed a notice of appeal from the decision of the Bankruptcy Court.  In the order granting the stay, the District Court indicated that it would likely rule in favor of Fox Sports on its appeal and disallow the premature negotiations and sale of the future media rights.

Within weeks of the stay order and just days before the appeal was set to be heard, Fox Sports and the Dodgers reached a settlement in which the Dodgers agreed to stop all attempts to conduct an early sale and negotiations of the media rights, which was the relief Fox Sports had requested.  The Dodgers also agreed to immediately assume its telecast rights agreement with Fox Sports while permitting Fox Sports to retain rights to object to a sale to Time Warner Cable.

The litigation occurred in the United States Bankruptcy Court and the District Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Jenner & Block team on the matter was led by Partner Richard L. Stone and includes Partners Kenneth D. Klein, Catherine L. Steege, Julie Ann Shepard, Amy M. Gallegos, Kenneth K. Lee and Associates David H. Hixson, Kelly M. Morrison, Ethan A. Glickstein and Jennifer L. Wagman.   Ms. Steege argued Fox Sports’ stay motion before the District Court.