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Attorney: McCourts might have to be business partners to keep Dodgers in family

Dennis Wasser, an attorney for Jamie, says, 'If this trial continues … I don't think there's any hope for the family or the Dodgers.'

January 25, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Frank McCourt and Jamie McCourt may have to become business partners if they want to keep the Dodgers in the family.
Frank McCourt and Jamie McCourt may have to become business partners if… (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles…)

Frank McCourt might have to become business partners with his ex-wife in order to keep the Dodgers in the family, her attorneys said Tuesday.

With the Dodgers set to report to spring training in three weeks, the legal battle to determine who owns the team is about to envelop a second season.

After a procedural court hearing Tuesday, attorneys for Jamie McCourt said they would soon assert what they said were her rights as co-owner of the team.

"That is not to say she is going to appear on the first day of the season and say, 'I'm here; I'm firing people,' " her attorney Dennis Wasser said.

Instead, in trying to assure her interest in the value of the team is protected, Jamie is likely to ask for the Dodgers' most recent financial results and projections, including information on discussions with Fox for a new television deal.

Jamie bases her claim to co-ownership on the decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon to throw out an agreement that would have granted Frank sole ownership of the team.

Sorrell Trope, an attorney for Frank, said Jamie is not a co-owner. Trope said Gordon's decision was limited to the validity of the agreement and that Frank would continue to own and run the team until another trial could determine whether the team is community property.

Trope said Frank would soon decide whether to appeal Gordon's decision or proceed directly to that new trial. Wasser said such a trial might not start before spring training opens — in 2012.

"You're not going to see the McCourts in trial for at least a year, and probably more," he said.

The sides have not held settlement negotiations since Gordon issued his ruling Dec. 7.

Wasser said Frank and Jamie might have to agree to work together — as co-owners, perhaps with additional investors — in order to keep the Dodgers in the family.

"If this trial continues … I don't think there's any hope for the family or the Dodgers," Wasser said.

Steve Sugerman, spokesman for Frank McCourt, declined to respond to that comment.

Trope could not say whether Frank might consider working with Jamie. In an August interview, another attorney for Frank ruled out that possibility.

"Frank does not want to become business partners with his former wife," attorney Steve Susman said then.

A joint venture between the McCourts would relieve Frank of an immediate obligation to buy out Jamie, but such an agreement would not ease the Dodgers' stiff debt load.

The Dodgers have taken a cash advance from Fox to pay current operating expenses. Frank met with Major League Baseball officials this month to outline his financial plan, but he did not receive assurances of support. Commissioner Bud Selig has the right to veto any television deal or new investors in the Dodgers.

Trope declined to discuss whether Frank could continue to fund the Dodgers through what could be additional years of litigation.

"I don't get involved in his pocketbook," Trope said.

David Boies, an attorney for Jamie, said the prospect of MLB intervention could trigger the resumption of settlement talks. Boies acknowledged that a partnership between the McCourts to operate the Dodgers — so that their four sons might someday run the team — might not be a popular resolution for MLB or fans.

"The thing that would be best for Frank and Jamie and their children, in my opinion, isn't necessarily the best for Los Angeles and for the Dodgers," Boies said.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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