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Frank McCourt says estranged wife undermines Dodgers' business operations

DODGERS

His lawyers will argue Tuesday for a February trial over ownership of the team. Jamie McCourt's attorneys plan to seek an autumn trial date.

December 15, 2009|By Bill Shaikin

Frank McCourt has accused his estranged wife of undermining the Dodgers' business operations, claiming in a court filing Monday that Jamie McCourt could "continue to seek to damage the Dodgers" so long as she presents herself as a co-owner of the team.

In a hearing today, Frank McCourt's lawyers plan to argue that a trial to determine ownership of the team should start in February, with the goal of resolving the matter by opening day. Jamie McCourt's lawyers plan to ask for a trial date next fall.

Neither of the McCourts is expected to attend the hearing and the court may not set a trial date today.

In his filing, Frank McCourt cited last week's visit to Taiwan by Jeff Fuller, the driver who became Jamie McCourt's boyfriend, as evidence of the need for a speedy trial. Frank McCourt submitted a letter from Rob Manfred, baseball's chief labor lawyer, in which he urged McCourt -- on behalf of Commissioner Bud Selig -- to "resolve this matter as quickly as possible to avoid future problems of this type."

In a meeting Friday with Acey Kohrogi, Dodgers director of Asian operations, Taiwan Sen. Justin Chou said Fuller had presented a Dodgers business card with his name on the front and Jamie McCourt's cellphone number on the back. Chou proceeded to call Jamie McCourt, who agreed to visit Taiwan "on behalf of the Dodgers," according to the filing.

Mike Sitrick, a spokesman for Jamie McCourt, said she has neither agreed to visit Taiwan nor represented herself "as an employee or official of the Dodgers." He said Fuller had acted on his own. He said he had no comment about whether Jamie McCourt might have spoken with Chou.

Frank McCourt charged his estranged wife with acting "directly and through her surrogate Fuller" in "leveraging her claim of co-ownership in ways that can only negatively impact the Dodgers' business."

Paul Archey, senior vice president of international business operations for Major League Baseball, sent a letter to Taiwanese baseball officials Friday -- with a copy to Chou -- describing Fuller as "a former Dodger employee purporting to represent" the Dodgers and reminding them his office handles foreign affairs on behalf of every team in the league.

In a previous filing, Frank McCourt's lawyers argued that Jamie McCourt's "public statements" about her possible purchase of the team represent an attempt to "create a cloud over the ownership of the team, causing a distraction not only to [Frank] but to the City of Los Angeles and all of the Dodgers' fans. . . ."

Bert Fields, an attorney for Jamie McCourt, has said his client has lined up "whatever it takes to buy Frank McCourt out."

The Times since has learned that Jamie McCourt has been advised by Joe Ravitch, a New York investment banker working on the sale of the Texas Rangers. Ravitch also worked on the sales of the NBA's New Jersey Nets and Seattle SuperSonics and on the creation of the New York Yankees' YES cable channel.

Ravitch has not returned messages from The Times, but the commissioner's office is aware of his work with Jamie McCourt, said a baseball source who did not wish to be identified because of the ongoing legal proceedings.

His advisory role is considered "absolutely not inappropriate," the source said, because ownership of the Dodgers remains in dispute.

Frank McCourt claims he is the sole owner of the club, with a document that he says backs him up. Jamie McCourt claims she is a co-owner and argues that document is invalid. If the court agrees with her, the source said, then one of the McCourts could buy out the other, or the Dodgers could be sold to a third party.

Jamie McCourt's lawyers have argued in filings that the trial to determine ownership should take place after all potential evidence has been exchanged and not be rushed simply so the matter can be resolved before the new season.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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