SBD/Issue 14/Franchises

Dodgers' Future Lies In Validity Of McCourt Marital Agreement

McCourts Are Scheduled To Return
To Mediation On Oct. 9

The "main question" left in the McCourt divorce case after 11 days is whether the couple's marital property agreement is "valid or not," according to Hall & Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt and his estranged wife, Jamie, yesterday in court "watched their lawyers make their final pitches" to Judge Scott Gordon, who now "has 90 days to decide if the sides can't achieve what he'd really like: a settlement." A court spokesperson noted that the McCourts are scheduled to return to mediation Oct. 9. They also are "expected to meet individually with the mediator before then." Jamie contends it is "preposterous" that she would knowingly sign away her right to part ownership of the Dodgers, while Frank called it "absurd" that he would have signed an agreement giving his wife all of their houses and half of the MLB franchise. Dennis Wasser, one of Jamie's attorneys, said that the marital property agreement "could be thrown out because Jamie signed under 'undue influence.'" Wasser suggested that attorney Larry Silverstein, who drafted the MPA for the McCourts, "committed fraud" and said that he was "unqualified to draw up the agreement and unschooled in the rules of California community property laws." But Victoria Cook, a member of Frank's legal team, said that Jamie "got exactly what she wanted." Cook said, "If a woman this highly educated is not bound by a marital property agreement she asked for, who is bound by it?" Another one of Frank's lawyers, Sorrell Trope, argued that "Silverstein's change of the documents to exclude Jamie from a right to the Dodgers was, indeed, in accord with 'Mrs. McCourt's wishes'" (L.A. TIMES, 9/30).

WE'VE ONLY JUST BEGUN? FANHOUSE.com's Jon Weinbach notes "neither side appears optimistic that a settlement can be reached before Gordon decides on the status of the MPA." The "losing McCourt is expected to appeal" Gordon's ruling, so for Dodgers fans, there is "little hope for any resolution before Christmas -- or well into baseball's busy offseason" (FANHOUSE.com, 9/30). In N.Y., Billy Witz notes Gordon will "render his decision in the case within 90 days, meaning that it may not come before free agency begins, raising questions about the Dodgers’ financial resources for another winter." Perhaps more "disconcerting is that, barring a settlement, Gordon’s ruling may not be the final word." The loser in the case will "most likely appeal, and with the way each side has spent on A-list lawyers -- an estimated $9 million for Jamie McCourt -- and the credit market still tight, the Dodgers will not be able to spend themselves into contention in one of baseball’s most competitive divisions." Frank's lead attorney, Steve Susman, said he has "no idea" if the sides will reach a settlement, but Wasser said that he "expected them to once Gordon made a decision on the marital property agreement." Witz notes Frank recently reiterated that he "had no intention of selling the club." Susman said, "If the Dodgers had won this season, nobody would be saying, ‘Oh my God, they have to sell the team'" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/30).

LEADING LADY: In L.A., T.J. Simers writes, "I declare Jamie victorious, so long as Judge Scott Gordon doesn't blow it on some mumbo-jumbo legal technicality." That would put Dodgers fans "a day closer to Frank posting a 'For Sale' sign" in front of Dodger Stadium. Simers added, "Frank will appeal. We know he will spend more money on lawyers. We don't know if he will do the same on his baseball team" (L.A. TIMES, 9/30).



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