How often does a Major League Baseball team become the subject of property-division issues in a divorce case? That’s what’s going on right now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose married owners, Jamie and Frank McCourt, have been in divorce proceedings since last week.
Because the divorce is taking place in California, the Los Angeles Dodgers may be considered community property. The ownership of the team is turning into a major issue of the divorce, in fact. Frank McCourt (not to be confused with the late Irish-American author, of course) claims that he and his wife signed an agreement that gave him sole ownership of the Dodgers in 2005. CEO Jamie McCourt, however, says that she signed it merely to protect the couple’s property in case their Dodgers deal ever went bankrupt.
“In the case of the Dodgers, the very first thing that will have to be determined is whether or not the asset is community property. And if it is community property, the judge will have to decide what’s half,” Steven A. Mindel, a divorce lawyer, and Certified Family Law Specialist with Los Angeles law firm Feinberg Mindel Brandt & Klein, told National Public Radio yesterday. He added that if this turns out to be the case, “one person may be bought out, the other person could then get to run the team — or they may have joint management of the team.”
Since Frank McCourt fired his wife from the team’s CEO position two weeks ago, after the Dodgers were eliminated from the National League playoffs, it looks like he has the advantage. But Jamie McCourt’s divorce lawyers insist that she has served as the public face of the Los Angeles Dodgers, sponsoring special events and seminars for female fans.
Mindel estimated that the battle over which McCourt owns the team could take “between 24 and 36 months”, as quoted by NPR.
Jamie McCourt, 55, filed for divorce on October 27, citing irreconcilable differences. Frank McCourt countersued for the divorce the following day and accused his wife of having an affair with her bodyguard. The couple married in 1979 and has four adult sons, one of whom has been the team’s director of marketing.
Frank McCourt bought the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004. Jamie McCourt is a former lawyer and vice president for her husband’s real-estate company.