Dodgers owner Frank McCourt's checking account had fallen as low… (Jacob de Golish / Getty Images )
In the latest filing in his contentious divorce, Frank McCourt said his personal account was low on cash, raising new questions about the team's ability to sign top players and retain the core of the National League West champions.
Responding to his estranged wife Jamie's request for monthly financial support, McCourt said his checking account had fallen as low as $167,000 in recent weeks, before he received $1 million from a quarterly distribution. In a separate filing, Jeffrey Ingram, chief operating officer of the McCourt Group, said McCourt's annual income from the team is capped at $5 million under a credit agreement with Bank of America.
Bert Fields, an attorney for Jamie McCourt, said Frank McCourt's claims raise the question of whether he can continue to field a team with a $100-million payroll.
"If it were true that he really doesn't have the resources to pay anything, then you'd have serious concern about his ability to run a baseball team," Fields said.
"If Mr. McCourt meant what he said, how is he going to pay all these guys?"
Frank McCourt claims sole ownership of the team. His attorney, Marshall Grossman, said player payroll would not be a problem.
"The players play for the Dodgers and get paid by the Dodgers," Grossman said. "Frank doesn't meet the payroll out of his own bank account any more than any other shareholder of any other company does."
With fans concerned despite repeated assurances of "business as usual," the Dodgers plan to make what Grossman called "very positive announcements . . . in the near future."
Grossman declined to say Wednesday whether those announcements would involve player acquisitions.
Jamie McCourt, in her court papers, cited Frank McCourt's net worth at $835 million. She has asked the court to order spousal support of $488,000 a month and reinstatement of such ownership perks as travel by private jet, country club memberships and access to team doctors.
In his court response, Frank McCourt said he gets "the same health insurance" and benefits as other team employees and said his only perk is "payment of certain minor expenses relating to [my] automobile."
He cited Jamie McCourt's liquid assets at $3.5 million and said she ought to make $231,000 in overdue payments on four properties so as not to harm his credit; she owns the homes but he co-signed for the loans.
"He's not the first guy to try to get out of supporting his wife by crying poor," Fields said.
Frank McCourt's lawyers also asked the court to set a trial date no later than Feb. 8 to resolve the issue of who owns the team. They estimated such a trial would take 10 days and would allow for a decision "before the commencement of the 2010 baseball season."
Jamie McCourt's lawyers countered that the trial need not be rushed to conform to the baseball schedule, citing repeated comments from Frank McCourt's lawyers that the divorce proceedings are not detracting from the Dodgers' day-to-day operations.