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Magic Johnson-led group is picked as Dodgers' next owner

DODGERS SALE

The group, headed by the Lakers legend known for community involvement, agrees to pay $2 billion for the team. Frank McCourt keeps a small land take.

March 27, 2012|By Bill Shaikin and David Wharton

The Dodgers lost that series in five games and have not finished above third place in the NL West since.

As the McCourts separated, the attorney for Frank McCourt said his client would remain in control of the Dodgers.

"Speculation about a potential sale of the team is rubbish," attorney Marshall Grossman said then. "Frank McCourt is the sole owner. He has absolutely no intention of selling this team now or ever."

Grossman said McCourt had a marital property agreement that specified the Dodgers were his separate property rather than community property.

However, attorneys later discovered three copies of the agreement that said the Dodgers belonged solely to McCourt and three that said they did not. After an 11-day trial in 2010, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon threw out the deal.

The Dodgers last year endured what might have been the most tumultuous season in club history, which started with San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow being beaten nearly to death in the Dodger Stadium parking lot and ended as Major League Baseball accused McCourt of "looting" $189 million in team revenue for personal use.

In the interim, the Dodgers played before a half-empty stadium, with McCourt saying the league had spooked fans by raising unwarranted concerns about stadium security and the league saying fans had refused to support McCourt's ownership.

McCourt took the team into bankruptcy in June, essentially asking the court to overrule Commissioner Bud Selig and let the Dodgers enter into a multibillion-dollar television contract. Selig had rejected a proposed $3-billion deal with Fox Sports in part because McCourt would have diverted some of the proceeds toward a divorce settlement.

In a Bankruptcy Court filing, attorneys for McCourt alleged Selig responded to the "enormous negative publicity" of the divorce trial by hatching a plan to choke off the Dodgers' money supply and force a sale of the team.

The league alleged McCourt's financial mismanagement in asking the Bankruptcy Court to order a sale, even threatening to kick the Dodgers out of the league if McCourt retained control.

McCourt reached separate settlements with his ex-wife and MLB within three weeks of one another last fall. Once McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers, MLB agreed to let him auction the team and granted him final say in selecting the new owner.

The bidding was spirited, with the new owner in position to negotiate a television contract that might be worth three times as much as the price to buy the team.

Former owner Peter O'Malley tried to buy back the team, and other unsuccessful bidders included such notable figures as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban; former Dodgers manager Joe Torre and Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso; Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley; and Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump and owner and publisher of the New York Observer.

All had higher public profiles than McCourt and his ex-wife, who introduced themselves to Los Angeles in 2004 as a baseball-loving couple from Boston who would transplant themselves and their four sons to realize their dream of owning a major-league team.

"Family ownership has returned to the Dodgers," Frank McCourt said that day.

Five years later, Frank fired his ex-wife as the Dodgers' chief executive in a termination letter that cited "insubordination, non-responsiveness, failure to follow procedures and inappropriate behavior with a direct subordinate," a reference to an affair he alleged she had with her driver.

When Jamie McCourt initiated the divorce proceedings -- one week shy of what would have been the couple's 30th anniversary -- she revealed the details of a lavish lifestyle financed by the couple's only source of revenue: the Dodgers.

"Frank and I enjoyed the many perquisites and benefits that come with owning a Major League Baseball team," she wrote in a court declaration.

In court documents, Jamie McCourt wrote of combined salaries of $7 million a year, plus $46 million to buy side-by-side oceanfront estates in Malibu, $27 million to buy side-by-side homes near the Playboy Mansion, additional properties in Massachusetts, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and Mexico, $400 dinners and $1,000-a-night hotels, private jet travel around the world, and even house calls from hairdressers and makeup artists.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

david.wharton@latimes.com

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