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Jamie McCourt is expected to ask judge to order sale of the Dodgers

Her position is that her ex-husband, Frank, has endangered the value of shared asset, two people familiar with divorce case say. If granted, request could spare MLB from decision on seizing club.

May 18, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Jamie McCourt wants a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to order the immediate sale of the Dodgers.
Jamie McCourt wants a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to order the immediate… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

Jamie McCourt is expected to ask a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to order the immediate sale of the Dodgers, two people familiar with the legal proceedings said Wednesday.

The request, if granted, could spare Commissioner Bud Selig from deciding whether to seize the club from owner Frank McCourt and risk a legal challenge to the powers of the commissioner's office.

Judge Scott Gordon on Thursday is expected to set a date to hear Jamie McCourt's request.

Jamie McCourt's position is that the actions of Frank McCourt — her ex-husband — have endangered the value of the Dodgers. She wants Gordon, the judge overseeing the couple's divorce, to order that the club be put up for sale so both parties could reap the maximum value for the primary asset of their marriage, according to the people familiar with the proceedings.

Matthew Hiltzik, spokesman for Jamie McCourt, and Steve Sugerman, spokesman for Frank McCourt, had no comment. Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, said the league would not comment.

Jamie McCourt is expected to urge Gordon to act before Selig can seize the Dodgers so that the couple, not the league, would control the sale process.

In December, Gordon threw out a marital property agreement that would have granted Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers. At the time, Frank McCourt promised to use another legal avenue to establish the Dodgers as his separate property, but he has yet to file supporting documents in court.

In the meantime, presuming the team is considered community property under California law, Jamie McCourt has asserted her right to approve what Frank McCourt says is a $3-billion television contract between the Dodgers and Fox, a deal that he says would solve the club's financial troubles.

Fox does not plan to move forward with the deal unless Jamie McCourt approves it, for fear of her contesting the contract in court, according to two people briefed on the matter. Selig has said he would not consider the agreement until after his investigation into the Dodgers' finances is complete, and he has offered no assurances about when the probe would be complete.

Frank McCourt met with Selig last week and said he "emphasized the importance of timing" with regard to approval of the Fox deal, since McCourt is in danger of missing the Dodgers' May 31 payroll. If he cannot meet payroll, Selig could pay the salaries, seize the team and put it up for sale.

Frank McCourt has argued that Selig has essentially seized the team already. He decried the action as "un-American" and refused to rule out a legal challenge, saying only that he would "protect my rights."

In announcing the investigation last month, Selig also took over financial control of the Dodgers. He appointed former Texas Rangers president Tom Schieffer as a trustee and empowered him to authorize all transactions over $5,000.

In the process, Selig has assembled an executive team that could run the Dodgers' business operations through months of a sale process — or years of a court fight. Selig has made no appointments to the Dodgers' baseball operations staff.

In addition to Schieffer, the executives overseeing the Dodgers include John McHale Jr., the former president of the Detroit Tigers and the trustee who oversaw the Texas Rangers through their bankruptcy process last year, and John Allen, the former chief operating officer of the Cincinnati Reds.

The Dodgers have sold an average of 36,711 tickets through their first 23 home games this year, down 16% from the same number of home games last year. At that pace, the Dodgers would sell fewer than 3 million tickets in a full season for the first time since 1992.

The Dodgers are in third place in the National League West, in danger of posting consecutive losing seasons for the first time in 24 years.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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