Pay or Play: Dodgers' Owners Divorce Could Cost $722 Mil

Pay or Play: Dodgers' Owners Divorce Could Cost $722 Mil
Frank and Jamie McCourt
Clinton H. Wallace/PhotoMundo/Globe

updated 10/20/2009 at 09:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/2009 03:00PM

Forget the Los Angeles Dodgers' do-or-die battle on the diamond with the Phillies – the real action is taking place behind the scenes, as Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, who happens to be the organization's CEO, duke it out for the future of the $722 million team.

And it looks like it's going to be messy.

At a recent playoff game, the couple shared the owners' box, but insisted on sitting in different rows. And sources say that the only thing the two can agree on is that they want to separate.

Among the issues in contention: who actually owns the Dodgers, who's the boss and how the franchise might be divided in a divorce. Jamie hasn't indicated she may step down as CEO, and no one thinks Frank wants to sell.

He Says, She Says

Frank's attorney, Marshall Grossman, says his client has documents that back up the claim that he is the 100-percent owner. "Frank McCourt is the owner of the team. He has always been the owner of the team," Grossman told the Los Angeles Times.

That claim's a foul ball, says Dennis Wasser, who represents Jamie McCourt, baseball's highest-ranking female executive. "Everything I've seen leads me to believe it’s 50-50, whether there's a document or not," Wasser countered.

College Sweethearts

The couple met at Georgetown University, married in 1979 and have four adult sons. Frank McCourt made his fortune in the commercial real-estate business in Boston and took over the Dodgers in 2004, paying around $430 million.

In addition to the Dodgers franchise, the McCourts will also have to sort out two properties in Holmby Hills, Calif., and two in Malibu, valued around a combined $80 million, according to published reports. Public documents show that Jamie is the sole owner of those properties and that Frank has waived any claim to them, reports the Times.

But one divorce expert says it doesn't have to end badly. "One party can buy out the other if there's enough property to equalize things," lawyer Ron Rale, a partner for Trope & Trope, which has handled many celebrity divorces, tells PEOPLE.

Another option, however unlikely: They can continue to work together to run the team.

"Most of the time, spouses in similar situations don't want to remain partners, they want to be apart," Rale says. "But they could put their interests aside and come to a solution that benefits the city and the team."

But, then again, how often does something that sounds like a pitch for a network sitcom work out in real life?

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