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McCourt management of Dodgers under grand jury investigation

The grand jury inquiry started early last year and appears to be focused on the accounting and propriety of Dodgers spending.

May 30, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • A federal grand jury is investigating possible criminal financial misconduct of the Dodgers and related entities during the ownership of Frank and Jamie McCourt, a person familiar with the matter told The Times. Authorities have requested documents from representatives of Frank and Jamie McCourt, shown in 2006, as part of a federal grand jury investigation of possible criminal financial misconduct of the Dodgers and related entities during their ownership of the team.
A federal grand jury is investigating possible criminal financial misconduct… (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles…)

A federal grand jury is investigating possible criminal financial misconduct of the Dodgers and related entities during the ownership of Frank and Jamie McCourt, a person familiar with the matter told The Times.

Authorities have requested documents from representatives of each of the McCourts, the person said. The investigation started early last year and appears to be focused on the accounting and propriety of Dodgers spending, the person said.

The Los Angeles Daily Journal first reported the investigation.

The McCourt divorce proceedings and the Dodgers' subsequent bankruptcy filing led to revelations about how team money had been diverted for the personal use of the McCourts. In a Bankruptcy Court filing, Major League Baseball alleged McCourt had "looted" $189 million from the Dodgers for personal use, a claim attorneys for McCourt called inflammatory and unsupportable.

The California attorney general last year ordered the repayment of $361,432 to a Dodgers charity, citing the improper expenditure of a $239,080 bonus to team executive Howard Sunkin and a $122,352 consulting contract in violation of state rules governing charitable foundations.

The Dodgers paid two of the McCourts' adult sons a combined $600,000 in annual salary despite one working at Goldman Sachs and the other attending Stanford University.

Under McCourt, the Dodgers also established a separate company to own the Dodger Stadium parking lots, to which the team paid $14 million per year in rent. Peter Wilhelm, who resigned this month as the Dodgers' chief financial officer, said in court papers in 2010 that about $5 million of that year's fee would go to McCourt, about $4.5 million to debt service and about $4 million to construction managers.

The money for construction was intended primarily for another McCourt entity, the John McCourt Co. That company had two employees--Geoff Wharton, then the Dodgers' chief operating officer, and his assistant. The Dodgers had halted major stadium construction by then.

In a letter to Frank McCourt last year, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said the Internal Revenue Service is investigating the McCourts' tax returns from 2006, 2007 and 2008. The McCourt divorce settlement also references possible penalties for tax returns in 2008 and 2009.

The settlement stipulates that Frank McCourt "shall be treated, for tax purposes, as having owned 100% of the McCourt Entities and Dodger Assets at all times" and obligates him to repay Jamie McCourt for "any taxes, interest and penalties" regarding her 2008 and 2009 returns "as a result of removing any deductions, credits or lossesĀ  that she has reported with respect to the McCourt Entities and Dodger Assets."

In a divorce court filing, Jamie McCourt said the couple paid no federal or state income tax from 2004 to 2009.

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