SBD/December 8, 2010/Franchises

Court Ruling Proclaims Jamie McCourt Co-Owner Of Dodgers

Jamie McCourt Has Been Working To Line Up Potential Investors For More Than A Year

Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt "lost a critical round in his effort to maintain control of the Dodgers on Tuesday, when a judge invalidated an agreement that would have provided him with sole control" of the team, according to Shaikin & Hall of the L.A. TIMES. L.A. Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon yesterday "threw out the marital property agreement" at the center of Frank's divorce from his estranged wife, Jamie, "because it did not conform to California law." Jamie's attorneys "proclaimed her a co-owner of the team and hinted that she might soon challenge her ex-husband to sell the Dodgers to her and other investors," though Frank's attorneys "pledged to fight another round in court." Frank's attorneys said that yesterday's ruling "conferred no ownership rights upon Jamie and would simply force Frank to use another legal means to establish the team as his sole property." The ruling is "not expected to have an immediate impact on the day-to-day operations of the team," though the Dodgers "could be in legal limbo for several more years." Sorrell Trope, an attorney for Frank, said that his client "has not decided whether to appeal Tuesday's ruling." Trope added that Frank "would move for a second trial in which he would claim the Dodgers are his sole property because he bought them using a company formed before marriage." David Boies, one of Jamie's attorneys, said that she "has no plans to involve herself in the daily operation of the club." She has worked with former Goldman Sachs Managing Dir Joe Ravitch "for more than a year to line up potential investors" (L.A. TIMES, 12/8).

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: USA TODAY's David Leon Moore writes Jamie was the "clear legal winner" in yesterday's ruling, but "what that means about the future of the club is anything but clear, and it could be unclear for years." Marc Seltzer, one of Frank's lawyers, said that he "would not sell." Seltzer: "Frank is certainly open to settlement talks, as he has been all along, but he has no interest in selling the team. The Dodgers are not for sale" (USA TODAY, 12/8). FANHOUSE.com's Jon Weinbach noted one "possible settlement option would be for Frank to pay Jamie off with an infusion of cash from Fox Sports Networks, which owns the Dodgers' TV rights and whose contract with the club expires after the 2013 season." An "extension from Fox -- with a large upfront payment -- would scuttle the McCourts' plans to create a Dodgers-centered regional sports network, but it would also help defray the McCourts' massive debts on the club and pave the way to a settlement" (FANHOUSE.com, 12/7). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes, "Pending the remote chance of a successful appeal, or even more distant chance that somebody will pony up the money to allow one party to buy out the other one, the Dodgers are expected to go on sale. ... It might not happen until after the appeal process is completed, but within the next couple of years, it's going to happen" (L.A. TIMES, 12/8). SportsCorp President Marc Ganis: "This is a mess. You don't know who's going to run and own the team, how long it will take, and how much the Dodgers will be devalued" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/8). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote, "The city, its ballclub and its fans sit in limbo. Like yesterday. Like tomorrow" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/7).

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Dodgers GM Ned Colletti yesterday at MLB's Winter Meetings "acted as if nothing was wrong." He "has said at every turn that the latest development in the legal case wouldn't impede his ability to assemble a contender and he repeated it" yesterday. Colletti: "I think it's business as usual." In L.A., Dylan Hernandez cites sources as saying that the Dodgers "reached agreements on one-year deals" with free agent P Vicente Padilla and CF Tony Gwynn Jr. Sources added that the team also "inquired" about Royals P Zack Greinke (L.A. TIMES, 12/8). ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said, "They already have their payroll and budget in place, so no matter how complicated this gets, the Dodgers can still compete in the free agent market and try to put their best team on the field" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN2, 12/7). The L.A. TIMES' Bill Shaikin notes the Dodgers this offseason have invested $77M in seven free agents, and the '11 payroll is "already at about $110 million -- about $15 million more than at the peak of last season" (L.A. TIMES, 12/8).

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