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McCourts' divorce could cost $35 million

Divorce could cost more than the Dodgers pay any current player. Jamie McCourt has already spent $11.2 million; Frank McCourt $9.4 million. Projections are that they could each spend $7 million more.

July 29, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Frank and Jamie McCourt meet with fans before a game at Dodger Stadium, July 4, 2006.
Frank and Jamie McCourt meet with fans before a game at Dodger Stadium, July… (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles…)

Frank and Jamie McCourt could pay more in divorce bills than the Dodgers pay any of their players, as the legal costs mount in what might well be the costliest split in state history.

The McCourts could spend close to $35 million in legal fees and costs, based on figures included in filings in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

"I don't think anything has even come close to that in California," said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney who represented Meg Ryan in her divorce from Dennis Quaid.

Timeline: The McCourts and the Dodgers

The Dodgers' largest contract among current players is $33 million, for pitcher Ted Lilly.

Jamie McCourt has incurred $11.2 million in legal fees and costs related to the divorce, her attorneys wrote in a court filing on Friday. Frank McCourt has incurred $9.4 million in legal bills, all unrelated to the Dodgers' bankruptcy case, according to his court filing on July 15.

The parties have settled nothing in the 21 months since filing for divorce. According to Jamie McCourt's filing, her legal bills for the balance of the case could exceed $7 million. Frank McCourt's attorneys did not dispute that their client could spend a similar amount.

The Dodgers are on pace to post a second consecutive losing season for the first time in 24 years, and to sell fewer than 3 million tickets in a full season for the first time in 19 years. The team filed for bankruptcy last month.

Could the Dodgers be better off if not for all this spending in divorce court?

Yes, said an attorney for Jamie McCourt, blaming Frank McCourt. Yes, said an attorney for Frank McCourt, blaming Jamie McCourt.

According to Friday's filing, Jamie McCourt spent $3 million to secure temporary spousal support to which Frank McCourt initially said she was not entitled and $8 million to defeat his claim that a marital property agreement granted him sole ownership of the Dodgers.

"Frank's remarkable ability to waste money through frivolous legal actions mirrors his devastating decisions that have led to the Dodgers' bankruptcy," said Michael Kump, an attorney for Jamie McCourt.

Yet Ryan Kirkpatrick, an attorney for Frank McCourt, said his client has tried to settle "from day one," working with six mediators. When Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman proposed a settlement last fall, Frank McCourt accepted and Jamie McCourt declined.

"She refuses to settle this," Kirkpatrick said. "She just wants to inflict pain on Frank and, consequently, on Dodger fans. There is nothing Frank would like better than for the litigation to go away.

"It only takes one person to decide not to settle, and it's really unfair for people to say Frank is the one responsible for this not being settled."

Kump said Frank McCourt has extended the legal proceedings — and run up the bills — as he battles Major League Baseball for control of the Dodgers.

"The obvious solution to all these problems is for the team to be sold," Kump said. "That would end all the fighting."

On June 17, the parties reached a settlement that included a one-day trial to determine whether the Dodgers are community property or Frank McCourt's separate property.

The settlement was invalidated when Commissioner Bud Selig rejected a proposed television contract with Fox, but Kirkpatrick and Kump said the possibility of a one-day trial could be revisited, which could lower the costs of determining team ownership from eight figures to six figures.

In Friday's filing, Jamie McCourt's attorneys said she had depleted her savings to fund the divorce litigation and asked that Frank McCourt be ordered to pay $9.9 million to resolve her outstanding legal bills and enable her to fund future divorce litigation.

The filing references the "millions of dollars in legal fees that the [Dodgers] … are now incurring to fund the bankruptcy proceeding initiated by Frank." In that case, Frank McCourt essentially has asked the bankruptcy court to override MLB rules. If he fails, MLB rules would require McCourt to pay the league's legal bills as well as his own.

Timeline: The McCourts and the Dodgers

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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