May 19 (Bloomberg) -- The ex-wife of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt asked the judge overseeing the couple’s divorce to order a sale of the Major League Baseball team so they can divide the proceeds.
California Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon today scheduled a hearing for June 22 on Jamie McCourt’s request. The judge said he will at the same hearing consider an earlier request by Jamie McCourt for information about the Dodgers’ business, as well as a new request by Frank McCourt for a ruling that his ex-wife has no say in a pending deal with News Corp.’s Fox Entertainment unit for media rights.
Dennis Wasser, a lawyer for Jamie McCourt, said after today’s hearing that Gordon agreed to help negotiate a settlement before June 22.
“We want to bring this to a conclusion rapidly,” Wasser told reporters outside the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. “Jamie felt she had sat on the sideline long enough.”
In her request, Jamie McCourt said that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to take over management of the team showed that her ex-husband isn’t operating the franchise “in the best interests of the club or the marital estate.”
She said the commissioner has the right to seize and sell the team, and wouldn’t be obligated to maximize the proceeds.
“If MLB invokes its power to terminate the Dodgers franchise and sell the team, it is almost certain that Jamie and Frank will not receive the maximum value for these assets,” Jamie McCourt said in her request. “Only a private sale controlled by Jamie and Frank under the court’s supervision will result in the highest possible sales price.”
Sorrell Trope, a lawyer for Frank McCourt, said after the hearing that his client is open to a negotiated settlement and he had been ready to settle last year.
Frank McCourt said in response to his ex-wife’s request that the Dodgers are his separate property. He said Jamie McCourt engaged in “a letter-writing campaign” to Major League Baseball in which she claims that an extension of the media-rights deal with Fox required her consent.
“This had the devastating effect of causing Major League Baseball to question who controls the Dodgers and contributed to its decision to try to seize control of the team,” Frank McCourt said. His ex-wife’s conduct “has hindered the approval of the Fox transaction, which if approved will inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the Dodgers.”
McCourt said at an April 27 news conference in New York that a proposed 17-year TV deal with Fox Sports was being blocked by Selig. Baseball officials have responded that Selig hasn’t vetoed the proposed deal, and that McCourt was told a decision awaited completion of a probe of the team’s finances.
MLB took over management of the team on April 20 because of what Selig called “my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers.” Former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer was appointed on April 25 as MLB’s monitor of the Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Times reported on May 3, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, that the Dodgers lacked the cash to meet their end of May payroll.
Frank McCourt last year lost a trial over the validity of a postnuptial agreement with Jamie that he said made him the sole owner of the Dodgers.
Meeting of Minds
Gordon decided in December that the 2004 agreement that McCourt and his ex-wife made when they bought the Dodgers and moved to California couldn’t be enforced. The judge said there was no “meeting of the minds” between the two when they made the agreement and that it isn’t valid under California law. Frank McCourt is appealing the judge’s ruling.
Jamie McCourt claims that in the absence of an enforceable postnuptial, the team is community property under California law.
“As I’ve said all along, my goal is to resolve this situation for my family in a way that also advances the best interests of the Dodgers fans, players and franchise,” she said today in an e-mailed statement. The request for a court order to sell the team “will hopefully provide some momentum in the right direction.”
Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers from Fox Entertainment Group Inc. in 2004 for $421 million. The team is now worth about $800 million, making it the third most valuable baseball team after the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, according to Forbes.
The case is McCourt v. McCourt, BD514309, California Superior Court (Los Angeles County).
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