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Frank McCourt says he fired wife for having an affair

In his court filing, Frank McCourt also says Jamie McCourt undermined the chain of command by not reporting directly to him.

October 29, 2009|Bill Shaikin

The dramatic tale of the Dodgers ownership battle took another turn Wednesday when Jamie McCourt's attorney said that she had lined up financing for a possible bid to buy out her estranged husband.

"Whatever it takes to buy Frank McCourt out, she's got," attorney Bert Fields said.

Yet Frank McCourt has no intention of selling the Dodgers, to her or anyone else, his attorney said Wednesday.

"Congratulations to her for being a prospective buyer," attorney Marshall Grossman said. "There is no seller. Perhaps she could explore some other sport."

The day started with a new and salacious twist, with Frank McCourt claiming in a 664-page court filing that he fired Jamie McCourt as the club's chief executive in part for having an affair with her driver, who was employed by the Dodgers. His attorneys also allege the two spent 2 1/2 weeks in France this summer and billed the team for the trip.

Frank McCourt, who says he is the sole owner of the team, fired his wife last week after the team was eliminated from the National League playoffs. She filed for divorce Tuesday and asked the court to reinstate her as chief executive. She also says that she is a co-owner of the team.

Frank McCourt's attorneys claimed in Wednesday's court documents that her reinstatement would be "akin to throwing a bomb into a crowded room."

The court scheduled a Nov. 5 hearing on her bid for immediate reinstatement and a Dec. 1 hearing to discuss spousal support and other issues pending trial.

If the court does not recognize Jamie McCourt as a co-owner, Fields said, she believes the court would declare the team community property and she would attempt to buy it. She has asked the court to invalidate a 2004 agreement she signed that gives her sole ownership of the couple's residential properties and gives him sole ownership of the team.

Fields would not say how much money a buyout might require or identify any of the investors that might support her, but he said she already had been offered sufficient financing, including one person who contacted her Wednesday and offered to finance the purchase himself.

Frank McCourt has asked the court for an expedited ruling validating that he is the sole owner, calling her claims of co-ownership "false and baseless" and damaging to the team.

"It is time to end this nonsense," the filing states.

Dodgers President Dennis Mannion said in the court documents that Jamie McCourt did not show up for work more than half the time, put her own image ahead of the team's and "exhibited an almost disdainful disregard for the fundamental requirements of her job and workplace etiquette."

Lawyers for Frank McCourt not only alleged that Jamie McCourt had an affair with her driver -- his grounds for firing her included "an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate employee" -- but also that she charged the Dodgers for the cost of a European trip with him, in the middle of baseball season.

Fields admitted that Jamie McCourt is in a romantic relationship with Jeff Fuller, her driver, but said the relationship started after she separated from Frank McCourt on July 6. Fields said she did not bill the team for the trip.

"What does that have to do with ownership of the Dodgers? Nothing," he said. "It's a vicious smear campaign."

Mannion denied Jamie McCourt's claims that he had instructed team employees not to work with her and excluded her from management discussions and decisions. He said he would have welcomed her involvement had she shown up for work more often.

Mannion further alleged that Jamie McCourt focused on initiatives "designed to cultivate and promote her image as the highest ranking woman in Major League Baseball," even when those activities "were not financially successful ventures and did not fit the strategic needs of the organization."

The filing in particular cited DodgersWIN, described in her biography as a program that "brings women closer to the game, brings the game closer to women's lifestyles, and helps inspire women to use their voices."

Upon his promotion to team president in March, the same day Jamie McCourt was promoted to chief executive, Mannion reported directly to Frank McCourt. In Jamie McCourt's court papers, she alleged that Mannion and Frank McCourt worked together to ensure she was "systematically excluded from business or management decisions."

Mannion told the court he opposes her reinstatement and said her animosity toward him and his colleagues makes clear "she will never again be able to work with the executives in a collaborative environment."

Fields denied those charges and said the court proceeding would show Jamie McCourt to be a more qualified executive than Frank McCourt.

"When people find out what she did as opposed to what he did, they're all going to want her to run the team," Fields said.

The Major League Baseball commissioner had no comment on the divorce proceedings or the unusually harsh words that have accompanied them, spokesman Pat Courtney said Wednesday. MLB President Bob DuPuy said last week that the league was monitoring the situation.

But one sports executive put the chances of the team eventually being sold to a third party as high as 50-50, saying the financial partners that might be required to sustain either of the McCourts as the Dodgers' owner could be turned off by the harsh public spectacle of this divorce.

"This obviously doesn't help your image if you're going into business with them," said the executive, who declined to be identified because he knows the McCourts. "This type of battling and all this personal slander doesn't make partners feel comfortable coming in."

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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