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Baseball Season Over? Not in Divorce Court

One World Series ended last week but another is just getting started. Yes, the New York Yankees triumphed over the Philadelphia Phillies. But in the Family Division of the Superior Court in Los Angeles, what may prove to be the World Series of divorce cases is only in its opening innings. And one diehard baseball fan and self-described law nerd has launched a blog to help us keep score.

The divorce at issue is that of Frank and Jamie McCourt. Frank is the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which he bought in 2004 for $430 million. Jamie is a lawyer who was chief executive officer of the Dodgers until Frank fired her last month. A few days later, on Oct. 27, Jamie filed for divorce. The next day, Oct. 28, Joshua Fisher launched his blog, Dodger Divorce.

The divorce, after 30 years of marriage, is already proving to be ugly, with Frank accusing Jamie of having had an affair with her driver and of having performed poorly as CEO. For Dodgers fans, however, the central issue in the divorce is proving to be ownership of the team. Frank says he is sole owner while Jamie contends she is a co-owner.

As Dodger Divorce (and any number of news accounts) describes, the ownership issue could be decided by a post-nuptial agreement signed by the McCourts shortly after the purchase of the Dodgers. The agreement is described as having given Jamie control over the couple's residential properties and personal assets and Frank control over the Dodgers and other business assets.

In an interview published yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, Jamie insisted she had no idea what she was signing when she agreed to the pre-nup. "I met Frank when I was 17, dated him for eight years and was married to him almost 30 years," she said. "I trusted the man."

But Frank's court filings say it was Jamie, "an experienced businesswoman and attorney who actually specialized in the practice of family law for many years," who was the driving force behind the post-nup. "When Frank McCourt acquired the Dodgers in February 2004, the organization was losing tens of millions of dollars every year. Jamie McCourt repeatedly told Frank McCourt and their attorneys that she wanted to protect herself from the financial risks associated with her husband's businesses -- most particularly, the risks associated with ownership of the Dodgers."

Another court filing by Frank provides more details about Jamie's legal career. After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1978, she first practiced international and securities law in New York. She then moved to Boston, where she concentrated in real estate and family law for many years. She then obtained a master's degree from the Sloan School of Business at MIT and joined Frank's construction company as vice president and general counsel.

As the unofficial umpire of this dispute, Dodger Divorce calls the ownership issue for Frank. "If Frank wins on the post-nup, he probably keeps the Dodgers," Fisher writes. "If Jamie wins, we'll have to wait to see if one has enough money to buy out the other. Based on the very limited information I have in front of me, I like Frank's chances more today than I did yesterday."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 12, 2009 at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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