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Jamie McCourt doubles request for monthly support

DODGERS

She wants $988,845 temporary monthly support and says her estranged husband is hiding facts on assets. Court filing details Frank McCourt's plans to turn Dodgers into sports business empire.

February 19, 2010|By Bill Shaikin

Jamie McCourt wants nearly $1 million per month in temporary support from her estranged husband, an amount disclosed in a court filing in which her lawyers allege Frank McCourt has engaged in a "carefully calculated subterfuge designed to mislead the court" about his financial resources.

The filing, unsealed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, includes details of how Frank McCourt hopes to transform the Dodgers from a baseball team into the anchor of a sports business empire that could include cable television channels broadcast in English and Spanish; homes, shops and a football stadium within the Dodger Stadium parking lots; and the purchase of a soccer club in China and another in the English Premier League.

In filing for divorce in October, Jamie McCourt asked for $488,000 per month in temporary support. The revised request -- for $988,845 per month -- reflects property-tax bills as well as additional records that her lawyers claim can show the couple averaged $2.3 million per month in salaries, distributions and perks starting in 2004, when the McCourts bought the Dodgers.

Frank McCourt still would have $1.3 million per month to maintain his lifestyle, her lawyers wrote.

"Jamie fully recognizes that the . . . award which she will be seeking will be viewed by many people as being astronomical," according to the filing. "That may very well be the case. But Jamie's request also has been thoroughly documented . . . as being wholly consistent with the parties' marital lifestyle."

In an attempt to minimize his financial exposure for possible divorce proceedings, her lawyers allege, Frank McCourt and his advisors used "blatant balance sheet manipulations" in providing a June 2009 financial statement estimating his net worth at $163 million -- nine months after estimating his net worth at $835 million in another statement.

In addition, according to the filing, Frank McCourt currently resides in a "luxury hotel in Beverly Hills," has spent $52,000 on clothes since November and keeps two of his sons on the Dodgers' payroll -- at a combined annual salary of $600,000 -- "despite the fact that one is a graduate student at Stanford and the other works full-time for Goldman Sachs." (One of those sons accompanied Frank McCourt to last month's meeting of baseball owners in Phoenix.)

Marc Seltzer, an attorney for Frank McCourt, did not return a call seeking comment. Each party is scheduled to file additional papers before the March 29 hearing on spousal support.

The trial to determine ownership of the Dodgers remains set for May 24. Frank McCourt claims he is the sole owner, citing an agreement in which he gets the Dodgers and the couple's other business interests and she gets the couple's residential properties. Jamie McCourt claims she is a co-owner.

Her lawyers hinted at one possible challenge to the agreement by suggesting in Thursday's filing that the McCourts might have used revenue from the Dodgers "as if it was their personal ATM or credit card" to support their lavish lifestyle. Also, as a result of carefully structured business entities, the McCourts have "paid no federal or California state income taxes since at least 2004," according to the filing.

The Dodgers appear to be a sound stand-alone business, based on records cited in the filing. The Dodgers' revenue has nearly doubled under McCourt management, from $156 million in 2003 to $295 million in 2008. The team generated $285 million last year and projects $290 million this year.

In 2003, the Dodgers reported a loss of $56 million. In 2008, they reported a profit of $23 million. (The Dodgers just about broke even last year, a high-ranking baseball source has told The Times, speaking on condition of anonymity because the clubs need not disclose financial results publicly.)

The Dodgers intend to launch cable channels in English and Spanish in 2014, after the expiration of their contract with FSN, with annual profit projections of at least $150 million, according to documents in the filing. Alternatively, the Dodgers estimate they also could sign a five-year extension with FSN for $300 million, according to the deposition of a club executive.

The Dodgers remain interested in building an NFL stadium adjacent to Dodger Stadium, and in persuading City Hall to lift zoning restrictions and allow "over a million square feet of mixed-use developments" in the stadium parking area, according to the filing.

In addition, Frank McCourt last year solicited a Chinese investment bank for a venture that would unite the Dodgers and a Beijing soccer club under the McCourt umbrella, with the intention of adding an English Premier League club to the mix. That venture appears to be on hold, according to the filing, because of the divorce proceedings.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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