Even as they appear in the drab marble corridors of Superior Court — with regiments of lawyers and carts of documents wheeled in like heavy artillery — one can’t help but believe they’ve finally gotten what they wanted:
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Behold Hollywood, here come Frank and Jamie McCourt.
They’re ready for their close-ups, though smaller than you might think judging from their publicity stills. In person, Frank is red-faced and a little twitchy, but slight and neat and exceedingly trim in his dark suit. Like a figurine on a wedding cake. Jamie arrives blowing air-kisses, semi-backless in a cream-colored dress. It accentuates her tan, which looked to have been re-applied during the lunch break. I’m betting she goes a buck-oh-five, max.
Former college sweethearts, they graduated from Georgetown, class of ’75. And now it boggles the mind to consider how many hours they’ve each spent with personal trainers, staving off the effects of advanced middle age. Again, they’ve prepared for this moment. Something like this, anyway.
There are a lot of well-to-do white people here outside Department 4, at least by the standards of a municipal courthouse. Still, Frank and Jamie pretend to notice everyone but each other. Theirs is an exquisitely practiced form of obliviousness.
Once in the courtroom, 13 lawyers take their places in the well. Who knows how many more sit in the gallery? They include Frank’s lead attorney, Steve Susman, whose Texas firm is described as a “litigation assault weapon,” and Jamie’s David Boies, the man who tamed Microsoft. Forget the $4 million the Dodgers saved by waiving Manny Ramirez. That’ll be gone by week’s end. The real question — given these litigators’ wages — is how couldn’t the McCourts afford a No. 1 starter?
The Dodgers led the league in attendance last year. This season, even with a payroll that’s been slashed by $23 million since 2008, they’re still third. On Monday night almost 45,000 showed up at Dodger Stadium to watch Hiroki Kuroda out-pitch Roy Halladay, taking a no-hitter into the eighth. And no matter how this trial goes, you’re led to one inescapable conclusion: The McCourts don’t deserve this team.
If you believe her, Frank swindled the mother of his four boys with a set of phony documents.
If you believe him, Jamie — an attorney who once practiced family law — is, in Susman’s words, “the first former divorce lawyer to claim she didn’t understand her own post-nuptial agreement.”
Take your pick: con artist or dope.
Either way, neither Frank nor Jamie McCourt is fit to own the Los Angeles Dodgers.
You want to know why a team in America’s second-biggest market has a payroll less than the Minnesota Twins? Because now as ever, Frank doesn’t have the bank for this. In his opening statement, Susman admitted that the acquisition of the Dodgers “turned out to be one of the most highly leveraged acquisitions in the history of major league baseball.” The only thing Frank had to trade on was 24 acres of waterfront property, most of it parking lots, in downtown Boston. By his own admission, he took on $119 million of personal debt to buy the team from FOX.
Never mind that he pays himself — in addition to all the monies and tax breaks he takes from the team — $5 million per (as opposed to Jamie’s mere $2 million as CEO before he fired her). By major league standards, the guy’s a pisher.
As for Jamie, she made law review at Maryland. She studied at the Sorbonne, and received an MBA from MIT. She was also — as everyone in the Western Hemisphere was made fully aware — the Dodgers CEO. Of course, she had political aspirations — governor, senator, maybe even national office. Hey, it’s California. Anything is possible — even a woman of Jamie’s impeccable credentials not knowing anything about community property or her status as an owner of the Dodgers.
That’s her argument. In 2004, she and Frank entered into a Marital Property Agreement. They agreed that all the multi-million homes were to be put in her name, as she wanted security against her husband’s risky ventures. Four years later, the heady summer that saw the Dodgers acquire Manny Ramirez for no money down, the CEO was still worried about creditors coming after them.
“Jamie was feeling very financially insecure,” testified Leah Bishop, an attorney then doing estate planning for the couple.
You own the Dodgers and you’re worried about paying the bills? How did Bud Selig’s people ever approve these yokels?
In any event, it wasn’t until 2008 that the JD-MIT-MBA-CEO realized that she might not actually own the Dodgers. Apparently, there were six copies of the MPA. Three of them have Jamie and Frank as co-owners. Three others have Frank as the sole owner.
“The documents were switched,” said Dennis Wasser, who represents Jamie, and accused the nefarious and suddenly ubiquitous “Silverstein” — another lawyer, of course — as the switcher himself.
“Insignificant and innocuous,” said Frank’s guy, Susman.
This will go on for a couple more weeks, the preening and posturing. Then Judge Scott Gordon will make a decision. One hopes it balances the laws of community property with a sense of the community’s interest. Either way, the guy’s got a hard choice, declaring a winner from two losers.