McCourt divorce case to end Wednesday

Attorneys for Frank and Jamie McCourt will get one last chance Wednesday to tell a judge in the couple’s divorce trial why their client should be the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After 10 days of testimony, Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon will get the case following closing arguments. He’ll have 90 days to decide whether Frank McCourt is the team’s sole owner, per a postnuptial marital agreement, or if the pact should be thrown out and the couple’s assets divided under California’s community property law.

Gordon also could order the sale of the team.

The McCourts signed the agreement shortly after buying the Dodgers in early 2004 that gave Frank McCourt the team, the stadium and the surrounding land, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and provided Jamie McCourt a half-dozen luxurious homes.

The trial will take a one-day hiatus Tuesday after Frank McCourt’s lawyers called a handful of witnesses Monday who testified that Jamie McCourt wanted the couple’s assets held separately because she didn’t want to expose the homes to her husband’s business creditors.

Financial consultant Robert Leib said he worked with the McCourts on bids to buy the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and Dodgers. Leib recalled Jamie McCourt saying the couple had problems with her husband’s creditors before and didn’t want that to happen again, adding the pair didn’t ”have two nickels to rub together.”

Baseball consultant James Corey Busch said he was taken aback when Jamie McCourt suddenly made a comment at a meeting before the purchase of the Dodgers about the way the couple divided their assets. Busch said she ”wanted to be separate from the (Dodgers) deal.”

Peter Wilhelm, the Dodgers’ chief financial officer, also testified that after conducting a financial analysis which showed the Dodgers were bleeding money under the previous owner, Fox Corp., Jamie McCourt questioned whether the deal was appropriate, Wilhelm said.

”It was all about the riskiness of the deal and if we could contain it,” Wilhelm said. ”Jamie was making it readily clear that she thought Frank was being too aggressive.”

Wilhelm’s testimony contradicts what Jamie McCourt told Gordon last week when she said she didn’t view the Dodgers transaction as risky. Frank McCourt’s lawyers have said Jamie McCourt isn’t entitled to a slice of the Dodgers because she wasn’t willing to take on the danger of possibly going belly up with the new business.

The $430 million deal was mostly funded by loans that needed to be paid in two years.

The Dodgers were in sad financial shape prior to the McCourt ownership. Court documents show the team lost nearly $200 million between 2000 and 2003.

Wilhelm also testified that Fox executives told him the new owner would have to field a payroll of $115 million.

”A turnaround was possible with a lot of hard work,” he said.

Wilhelm was part of a management team that came up with a business plan that was eventually submitted to Major League Baseball. The proposal called for cutting payroll by 11 percent and 21 percent in 2005 and 2006, respectively, with an operating budget of roughly $85 million. The document was shown earlier in the trial.