LOS ANGELES — Ex-Los Angeles Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt on Thursday asked a judge to order the sale of the team, saying her ex-husband has badly mismanaged the franchise since he fired her nearly two years ago and brought one of baseball’s most storied franchises to the “brink of financial ruin.”
The request comes less than a month after Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig appointed former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer to oversee the Dodgers after questions arose about the team’s finances.
A resolution in the Dodgers drama that began in late 2009, when Jamie McCourt filed for divorce, may be closer than once believed because of several factors:
• The resumption of settlement talks between both sides.
• Findings from the ongoing investigation by MLB.
• The inability of Frank McCourt to make the May 31 major league player payroll, according to baseball officials.
• And a June 22 hearing in front of Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon where he will hear arguments about why he should order the sale of the Dodgers.
Gordon presided over the former couple’s divorce trial that centred on the validity of a postnuptial marital agreement which gave Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers. Gordon deemed the 10-page document invalid and cleared the way for Jamie McCourt to seek half the team under California’s community property law.
Neither Jamie nor Frank McCourt attended a brief court hearing Thursday, but both sides stipulated to have Gordon oversee a possible settlement.
Outside of court, Jamie McCourt’s attorneys said their client could no longer wait to see what may occur with the Dodgers.
“As I’ve said all along, my goal is to resolve this situation for my family in a way that also advances the best interests of the Dodgers fans, players and franchise,” she said in a statement. “This motion will hopefully provide some momentum in the right direction.”
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment about Jamie McCourt’s request.
Sorrell Trope, an attorney for Frank McCourt, said his client has no intention of selling the team.
Frank McCourt has said in various media interviews that MLB should approve a 17-year television deal with Fox which could be worth more than US$3 billion. He took out a $30 million loan from Fox earlier this year.
His attorneys said in a court filing that Jamie McCourt has hampered his ability to get a TV deal done because she has publicly said she owns half of the Dodgers and would veto any potential transaction.
“This had the devastating effect of causing Major League Baseball to question who controls the Dodgers and contributed to its decision to try to seize control of the team,” lawyer Ryan Kirkpatrick wrote in asking Gordon to rule that Jamie McCourt has no control over what happens with the TV deal.
In her court filing, Jamie McCourt implies her ex-husband has put the team in financial shambles since she was forced out of her executive position.
“Over the past year-and-a-half, Frank has mismanaged the Dodger assets, and in the last few months, his management of the assets has become so unprofessional and commercially unreasonable that it is threatening the very ownership and value of these assets as part of the community estate,” attorney Dennis Wasser wrote.
Jamie McCourt is pushing for a private sale — rather than one facilitated by MLB if it invokes its power to sell the team — because she believes it will result in the highest possible sales price. Frank McCourt’s attorneys have said the team and its properties are worth between $800 million and $900 million, while his ex-wife’s lawyers believe the potential could be more than $2 billion.
The highest sale price for a baseball team was $845 million for the Chicago Cubs and related properties, including Wrigley Field, two years ago. Earlier this week a group led by businessman Jim Crane agreed to buy the Houston Astros for $680 million.
The former couple’s lavish lifestyle was exposed in court documents where it was revealed that they took out more than $100 million in loans from Dodgers-related businesses. Their spending habits were likened to using the money from the team as if it was their personal ATM or credit card.
When pressed about his client’s contribution to the Dodgers’ financial woes, Wasser sidestepped the question and said the focus should be restoring the Dodgers name.
“What I think you have to do is not cast aspersions on anybody,” Wasser said. “You have to deal with the situation we have now, and the situation we have now is a situation and a need for action. We’ve put a very short fuse on it to get it resolved.”