SBD/Issue 35/Franchises

Jamie McCourt Faces Uphill Battle In Claiming Share Of Dodgers

McCourt Says She Thought
Dodgers Would Be Shared
Former Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt this week in her divorce filing insisted that she is "entitled to a share of ownership in the Dodgers," but she "faces an uphill battle in persuading a court to throw out the legal agreement that says otherwise," according to family law experts cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. McCourt's attorneys have said that the Dodgers "should be considered community property under California law, which generally divides assets on a 50-50 basis in divorce cases." Her attorneys "have asked the court to declare as 'null, void and unenforceable' the document signed by each of the McCourts and worded specifically to supersede the community property law." The agreement provided that Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt "would be sole owner of the Dodgers and other business interests," and a list of properties belonging solely to him in the legal document includes "all assets of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team." Frank in court filings said that he "signed the agreement 'to honor the request of my wife' and to ensure the residences would remain out of reach of any creditors," as Jamie "would be sole owner of eight residences" as part of the agreement. But Jamie said that "it was 'never my understanding' that the Dodgers would not be shared and said she was 'simply told that I needed to sign the document' to ensure the homes would remain separate from business assets and not subject to community property law." Loyola Law School family law professor Charlotte Goldberg said that for Jamie to "persuade the court to override that agreement, she would have to show she was unaware of what she was signing, was unaware of what the effect would be and did not sign voluntarily." Goldberg noted that it "could be a difficult standard for Jamie McCourt to meet." But Jamie's attorneys said that their "trump card is an estate planning attorney with whom the McCourts discussed modifying the agreement last year." Jamie in her divorce filing said that Frank "told that estate planning attorney that he never had intended 'that the Dodgers ... be his separate property'" (L.A. TIMES, 10/30). An MLB source said, "It's a real mess." SI.com's Jon Heyman wrote there is a "lot of ugliness here." If Frank "wins the case, it appears he might have a chance to keep the team," but if the team is "split into two, it's going to be tough for either of them to wrest control" (SI.com, 10/29).

SELIG TIGHT-LIPPED: Shaikin reports MLB Commissioner Bud Selig during an informal meeting with reporters prior to Phillies-Yankees World Series Game Two Thursday "refused to discuss the Dodgers' divorce drama." Selig: "This is not a subject that needs to be addressed here." Selig was "visibly agitated when the issue was raised," and he "declined to discuss what he would say to Dodgers fans worried about the future of the team." Selig "talks to club owners on a frequent basis," but he "would not say whether he now talks to Frank McCourt or Jamie McCourt, or both." Selig also "declined to say whether Jamie McCourt would continue to serve in her capacities with Major League Baseball, even after Frank McCourt fired her last week" as Dodgers CEO (L.A. TIMES, 10/30). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes, "By the time the McCourts started one divorce, another was already being finalized, between the team and the values that once made it so special. This is why, today, if forced to choose between Frank or Jamie as a singular Dodgers owner, Major League Baseball officials would probably check 'none of the above.' Nobody will publicly say it, but some think baseball quietly wants this team sold to anyone not named McCourt, these recent daily embarrassments being only the latest example of the sort of poor judgment not befitting a curator of what was once a national sports treasure" (L.A. TIMES, 10/30).

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