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The Dodgers' owners are splitting up

Oct 15, 2009, 8:20 AM EST

This is the sort of thing that can cause a team serious trouble:

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie, the team’s chief executive, have separated, raising questions about the potential effect of their rift on the ownership of the franchise as the Dodgers prepare to start the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies today at Dodger Stadium.

“This is a personal matter and they request that their privacy be respected. They will be making no public statements,” they said in a release issued by the club late Wednesday.

Trouble, because when a divorcing couple owns an asset valued at $722 million, in a community property state like California, there are two options: (1) one of the owners buys out the other’s share; or (2) they sell the asset and split the proceeds.

According to the article, major league officials do not believe either spouse could afford to buy out the other and still maintain a financial reserve sufficient to run the club without taking on financial partners. Sure, there is a reference in the article to the possibility of a prenup, which could short-circuit all of this, but it’s not like the McCourts were married yesterday.  They got married in 1979, and back then Frank McCourt was merely the owner of a two year-old parking lot development company. In light of that, it strains credulity that there’s a prenup in place that covers the hundreds of millions of dollars the McCourt family has earned over the past three decades, especially given the fact that Jamie McCourt — the Dodgers’ current CEO — appears to have played a much more active role in Frank McCourt’s businesses than most spouses do. And even if it arguably does, a court’s skepticism and disregard for a given prenup increase the longer a given marriage lasted.  Thirty years is a long time as far as these things go. Any prenup the McCourt’s have could conceivably be ignored.

We saw this dynamic play out in San Diego over the past year, where Padres’ owner John Moores — rich, but not in possession of all the much in the way of liquid assets — had to slash payroll and then enter into some farkakte, slow-motion sale of the team to Jeff Moorad.  It’s a situation that will, in all likelihood, serve to hamstring the Padres for several years.  Will such a thing happen in L.A.?  Frank McCourt’s lawyer is quoted in the article saying no, but then again, he’s Frank McCourt’s lawyer so he’s going to say stuff like that.  The fact of the matter is that given Jamie McCourt’s job with the team, the breakup will no doubt will cause some level of disruption even if the financial repercussions are somehow sorted out, and like I said, the chance of that happening with no drama is pretty low.

The biggest question arising all of this, however, is why the McCourts are announcing this now (this came via a Dodgers’ official statement).  The team starts the NLCS tonight and you’d think that the owners would want nothing short of 100% positive juju right now.  One possibility?  They’re just bad at P.R.  A more plausible possibility: some reporter was about to break the news on this in a way the McCourts don’t like — say, with some unflattering or even ugly details — and they wanted to get out in front of it.

Either way, this is shaping up to be a pretty damn momentous week in Dodgerland.

  1. Chris Odell - Oct 15, 2009 at 10:16 AM

    And don’t forget — California is a community property state, which means that a prenup would be strictly construed in light of the presumption that all earnings by either spouse during the course of the marriage (including salary, appreciation of assets, etc.) are earnings belonging to the community estate. The community presumption is a very big deal.

  2. Jimsjam33 - Oct 15, 2009 at 11:36 AM

    Rush Limbaugh is in the wings ready to pounce at the opportunity . No , just kidding I hope that the McCourts will see their pastor , if they have one , and work this trajedy out . C’mon , 30 years is a long time . They must have loved each other once . Re-kindle the fire McCourts ! I pray to God that you will . We’ve both been good for L.A.

  3. Mike - Oct 15, 2009 at 2:47 PM

    If the McCourts have a pastor, the odds are 50-50 that he’s been hitting on Jamie. Or if they’re Catholic, he could be hitting on Frank.

  4. Robo7 - Oct 15, 2009 at 3:33 PM

    I truly hope they’ll work this out without harming the team too much. The McCourt years have been great for the Dodgers, everything was moving in the right direction. I am very dissapointed.
    But just in case it doesn’t work out….Jamie – you got my number, right?

  5. mick kennedy - Oct 15, 2009 at 7:05 PM

    Of course this kind of action will have an effect, but if the media will just mind their own business and let the Dodgers do what they do best and get on with the task of winning the World Series. The media is having a hayday with this news. I wish they would back off and let’s play ball!

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