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The McCourt show: from bling to bitterness

The pace is slow, but admission is free and the cast includes enough lawyers to field a baseball team.

September 01, 2010|Steve Lopez

It occurred to me Tuesday, as I watched Boston transplants Frank and Jamie McCourt slog it out in court, that maybe being rich is not worth the hassle.

Sure, there are advantages to having piles of money. The McCourts, for instance, hired the best financial consultants and managed to avoid paying income taxes on millions in profits over a five-year period.

Sweet.

And they've got seven homes in star-map neighborhoods, including two fab beach properties next door to each other in Malibu, one they bought for $27 million and the other a $19-million bungalow.

But for all of that bling, they both looked miserable in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon, their lives on public display as they fight over ownership of the Dodgers and the rest of their considerable holdings.

Frank was grim as an undertaker.

Jamie looked as if she'd taken a gut punch.

They would make a sad pair of Dodger bobbleheads.

"For as long as I had known Jamie and Frank," one of their attorneys said from the witness stand Tuesday, "they bickered constantly."

And now the bickering is on public display, with that same attorney, Leah Bishop, testifying that Frank yelled at Jamie in front of other people and that Frank once broke into tears in the attorney's presence, asking, "Did I do anything wrong? Did I treat her badly?"

I wanted to scream, "You paid that bum Manny Ramirez $45 million for nothing and I still can't get a hot dog from your lousy concession stands in less than two innings, so yeah, there's a lot you did wrong."

Bishop was somewhat more delicate. She said she told Frank that he "hadn't been very nice" to Jamie and ignored the things that were important to her. And so it went all day, the two McCourts mud-wrestling over conflicting documents regarding who gets the houses, who runs the Dodgers and who pays which bills.

There were quite a few references to Jamie's concerns about preserving the family nest egg. I hadn't heard that term so often since "Lost In America," when Albert Brooks went bonkers after his wife lost their life savings in Vegas one night. Brooks told her she was never again to use the words "nest" or "egg."

Brooks and his wife eventually put their marriage back together, but I would wager my nest egg there will be no such happy ending for the McCourts, who are armed for battle. As a Dodgers fan, I couldn't help but be ticked off that they'd hired roughly a dozen top-gun lawyers for this fight but couldn't get a home run bat into the lineup down the stretch.

And no, I'm not exaggerating when I say they had enough attorneys between them to field a full baseball team and then some. My guess is that such a team would do no worse than the cut-rate Dodgers squad they've put on the field at Chavez Ravine.

A divorce proceeding, by the way, is a tedious affair and even worse if you've got money. Being rich buys you each a 5-inch-thick binder filled with ammunition that includes personal e-mails and financial documents. These are pulled out one after another by lawyers, projected onto a screen and discussed in excruciating detail, with lawyers making precisely the same points 20 or 30 times on average.

It goes something like this:

And now if the witness would please draw her attention to Exhibit 1096.

I'm sorry, I don't have Exhibit 1096.

OK, how about Exhibit 112?

Got it.

Now let's go back to 1096 and look at item number nine, so I can ask yet another indecipherable question.

Objection, your honor.

Overruled.

Would the witness please tell the court what you meant when you said you didn't understand what anybody else meant regarding the transmutation agreement and the CP and SP understanding?

It's hours of this stuff, folks. You sit there praying the judge will say, "Let's take a break now. Waterboarding, anyone?"

Even Jamie McCourt's parents, who sat in front of me, were fighting sleep half the day, looking as bored as Dodgers fans in September. They seemed quite sensible, so I was dying to ask them what they thought about my favorite Dodgers story — the one in which the McCourts hired a spoon-bender in Boston to send positive energy to the Dodgers.

My suggestion, dear readers, is that if you've got no money and maybe even no job, you should come downtown and take a look at rich people doing tortured battle with each other. It'll make you feel better about your lousy lot in life.

In fact, I am hereby, officially and irrevocably, withdrawing my proposal of marriage to Jamie, which she never responded to anyway.

Sure, I was in it partly for the money. But I was also interested because I thought Jamie, a lawyer who became the highest-ranking woman in major league baseball, was a first-rate businesswoman.

What am I supposed to think now? She once was a divorce lawyer, for crying out loud, and yet there she was in divorce court, trying to have us believe she didn't understand some of the property agreement documents she signed with Frank.

I'm ready to move on. Money, as you might have heard, can't buy happiness. It just gives you more to fight over.

steve.lopez@latimes.com

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