The Los Angeles Dodgers will enter a legal dispute regarding the ownership of two of Jackie Robinson’s player contracts, which may be worth as much as $10 million.
In 2013, Collector’s Café, run by Mykalai Kontilai, purchased two of Jackie Robinson’s MLB contracts for $2 million. One is Robinson’s historic 1947 contract with the then-Brooklyn Dodgers, in which he became the first African American to play in the MLB. The second is Robinson’s 1945 contract with the Kansas City Monarchs, the Dodgers’ minor league affiliate. While the value of the contracts has been fluctuating, they could be worth $10 million or more at auction.
In May 2019, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit against Collector’s Café and Kontilai. This lawsuit claims that Kontilai raised $23 million from backers but squandered about $6 million of that amount. The SEC won an order freezing assets in his possession, which include the Robinson contracts.
After the SEC sued Kontilai, investors intervened and filed their own lawsuit. The investors named the Dodgers as a defendant and argued that they have superior rights to the contracts over the team.
The investors stated that they intervened because the Dodgers told a Nevada auction house that the team was asserting a potential ownership interest in the contracts. The Dodgers likely spoke to the auction house since Kontilai was seeking to auction the contracts for millions of dollars above his purchase price.
U.S Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorestein is overseeing the two lawsuits and anticipates a trial in 2020. “Whether there’s going to be two separate trials or not is left for another day,” Gorenstein said.
The lawsuit will likely turn on whether these two contracts were those owned by the Dodgers decades ago or were Robinson’s personal copies. The Dodgers plan to answer the investors’ suit shortly.