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McCourt divorce trial to draw in Major League Baseball's top attorney

Thomas Ostertag, the general counsel of Major League Baseball, is expected to appear as a witness for Frank McCourt.

August 23, 2010|By Bill Shaikin

The commissioner's office has resisted any substantive involvement in — or comment about — the Dodgers' divorce drama. That could change during the upcoming trial, with the commissioner's top lawyer scheduled to appear as a witness for Frank McCourt.

Thomas Ostertag, the general counsel of Major League Baseball, would be expected to testify that McCourt is the sole owner of the Dodgers and that Jamie McCourt has no claim to ownership under baseball rules. Ostertag could also say Jamie had never been approved by MLB as an owner and in fact had prepared statements for MLB certifying Frank as the sole owner.

The McCourt trial is set to start Monday, with Jamie asking the court to throw out an agreement she and her estranged husband signed six years ago that specifies he is the sole owner of the Dodgers. The list of potential witnesses, highlighted by the McCourts themselves, otherwise is dominated by lawyers who worked on drafting or revising that agreement.

Jamie says she never would have knowingly signed an agreement in which she would have waived her right to the Dodgers. Frank says she initiated such an agreement, putting the team in his name and the couple's homes in her name so creditors could not seize them if the Dodgers or other McCourt business assets faltered.

The sides filed several pretrial motions Monday. Jamie asked the court to restrict testimony on the discrepancies among recently discovered versions in the agreement, arguing the discrepancies alone — three versions say the Dodgers are Frank's sole property and three do not — represent sufficient grounds to throw out the agreement. Frank has argued those discrepancies are nothing more than typographical errors that were later corrected to reflect the intentions of the McCourts.

Frank filed three motions, the most significant of which asked the court to bar discussion of the current value of the Dodgers or the homes. Jamie has argued the value of the Dodgers was considerably greater than the value of the homes when the agreement was signed; that gap has widened dramatically since then.

"The [agreement] would not have become invalid if Frank had failed miserably and lost his entire fortune," Frank's lawyers argued. "Likewise, Frank's success in turning around the Dodgers has no effect on the validity of the [agreement]."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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