Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Jamie McCourt files for divorce from Dodgers owner
LOS ANGELES -- Jamie McCourt on Tuesday filed for divorce from Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and asked a judge to reinstate her as the team's chief executive, signaling what could be a lengthy and nasty fight over the storied baseball franchise.
Court documents obtained by The Associated Press cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split. The McCourts have been married since 1979 and have four grown sons, ranging in age from 19 to 28.
Frank McCourt fired his wife as the team's chief executive last week when the Dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Philadelphia Phillies.
The dispute comes as the Dodgers enter a busy offseason and could be a distraction when spring training arrives in February.
The team has the most potential players eligible for free agency with 16, including Manny Ramirez, who must decide if he will exercise his $20 million option for next season and return. Manager Joe Torre is headed into the final season of his three-year contract and Ned Colletti was recently given a long-term contract extension as general manager.
Jamie McCourt's filing states she is seeking reinstatement as the team's CEO as well as access to perks including travel by private jet, stays at five-star resorts and use of the Dodgers owners' suite. She wants $321,000 a month in spousal support if reinstated to her former position. If not, she believes she should be paid nearly $488,000 per month.
A hearing on whether she should be given back her job will be held Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
In a declaration, Jamie McCourt said she was fired Wednesday and she and her husband agreed they wouldn't take action until after the Dodgers season was over.
"Frank has no right to purport to terminate me. We are co-owners of the Dodgers," she said. "Not only has Frank publicly held us out as co-owners of the franchise, he has also admitted this fact in front of our estate planning counsel."
There are estate records that list Frank McCourt as the team's sole owner, said Bert Fields, Jamie McCourt's attorney. However, the lawyer who drafted the documents alerted Jamie McCourt to the mistake last year in front of her husband who acknowledged the paperwork should have reflected the co-ownership of the Dodgers, Fields said.
"It was always supposed to 50-50," Fields said. "New documents were drafted, but they were never signed."
Fields said he believes testimony from the estate planning attorney will show the couple share team ownership.
"We're confident we're going to establish that the Dodgers are community property," Fields said.
Frank McCourt's lawyer, Marshall Grossman, called the account a "fairy tale" and said the marital agreement lists the Dodgers and the adjoining property, including Dodger Stadium, as his client's separate assets and the couple's homes belonged to Jamie McCourt.
"This is the deal Mrs. McCourt wanted and got," Grossman said. "She now wants everything put back as community property. Even a chef knows you can't unscramble the eggs."
Jamie McCourt disputes the claim, saying "There was never any discussion that only Frank owned the Dodgers or that it was his separate property," according to her declaration.
Frank McCourt said in court papers the couple had a "long-standing practice" of dividing their assets. He added his wife supported that approach to ensure they could be protected from any creditor claims against himself or the Dodgers.
He said the couple entered into a marital agreement in March 2004 that gave him ownership of the Dodgers. He said he has allowed Jamie McCourt to identify herself as "co-owner" for the "interests of family harmony" but her claim has damaged the Dodger organization.
"Reports of these statements have been detrimental to the Dodgers, my other business ventures, and me personally," Frank McCourt wrote. Her claim has "thrown an unjustified cloud over the ownership of the Dodgers."
Jamie McCourt said in her filing that the couple's worth is more than $1.2 billion and includes four homes in the Los Angeles area, two in Massachusetts, a condominium in Vail, Colo., ranchland in Montana and undeveloped property in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
She added she has been unable to pay her bills and wants Frank McCourt to pay for her attorneys' fees estimated at $2 million and another $500,000 to an accountant. Her salary with the Dodgers was $2 million, according to court documents.
The Dodgers were purchased in February 2004 for about $430 million. At the time, the team lost $57 million in 2000; $85 million in 2001; $83 million in 2002; and $78 million in 2003, according to court documents filed by Frank McCourt. It doesn't say how much revenue the Dodgers have produced under the McCourts.
Jamie McCourt claims her husband plotted to boot her from the team's front office as a way to "humiliate and ostracize" her. She said she was excluded from management decisions.
Jamie McCourt said she lodged a complaint with team attorneys, citing workplace harassment.
Grossman said he plans on filing documents Wednesday that spell out why Jamie McCourt was fired. Among them -- an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, failure to abide by corporate policy and insubordination. Grossman refused to elaborate. Fields declined to comment about the relationship.
Fields hinted there would be further litigation but refused to say whether it would involve the Dodgers. He did indicate the divorce proceedings would be a drawn-out affair.
"Oh, this is going to be a battle," he said.