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Los Angeles Dodgers Owner, Ex-Wife Settle Divorce Dispute

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie McCourt, agreed to settle a divorce dispute in an agreement that leaves the future of the team undecided until August.

Lawyers for the McCourts told Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon at a hearing in Los Angeles today that they reached an accord on how to resolve conflicting claims over who owns the team. The judge accepted the settlement, which is contingent on Major League Baseball approving a media-rights agreement Frank McCourt made with News Corp.’s Fox Entertainment.

The settlement doesn’t resolve the dispute over whether the Dodgers are Frank McCourt’s sole property or community property. The judge scheduled a one-day trial for Aug. 4 to address Frank McCourt’s remaining claim he has sole title to the team.

“I believe I will prevail on Aug. 4,” Frank McCourt told reporters today outside the courthouse.

If he loses, the Dodgers will be sold and the proceeds split evenly, according to the settlement. If he wins, Jamie McCourt will receive $100 million and all of the couple’s residential properties except for one, according to the term sheet provided by the lawyers.

The settlement clears the way for Major League Baseball to approve the proposed TV deal with Fox, Frank McCourt said. MLB wanted the judge to approve the transaction, Jamie McCourt to consent to it, and the divorce to be settled, all of which conditions were met with the agreement, McCourt told reporters.

‘Huge Milestone’

“This is huge milestone,” he said. “It’s a big step forward.”

The Fox agreement includes a $385 million loan. About $235 million of the money will go to the Dodgers, and about $80 million will go to pay off debt. About $50 million will “be put into an account subject to the court’s orders,” under the agreement.

Both Frank and Jamie McCourt will receive $5 million from the loan to pay their lawyers and an additional $5 million “to use as she and he desires,” according to the settlement. If the Dodgers are found to be community property and will be sold, Frank and Jamie McCourt will receive $650,000 a month each from the $50 million put aside until their assets have been sold.

“Resolving this matter is my top priority and I hope today was a step in that direction,” Jamie McCourt said in a statement. “I love the Dodgers, the fans, and the community. Reaching a resolution is the most important thing for my family, my children, and certainly for the fans and for baseball. I have been trying to accomplish this for the past two years, and the sooner it’s completed, the better.”

Dennis Wasser, a lawyer for Jamie McCourt, told reporters it was “way too far ahead” to discuss in detail what would happen after the Aug. 4 trial, should his client prevail, beyond what was disclosed in the agreement.

Jamie McCourt last month asked the judge to order a sale of the Dodgers, saying baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to take over the team showed that her ex-husband wasn’t operating the franchise “in the best interests of the club or the marital estate.”

Major League Baseball took control of the business operations of the team in April because of what Selig called “my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations” of the Dodgers.

Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment whether the settlement clears the way for the league to approve the Fox television agreement.

Trial Loss

Frank McCourt last year lost a trial over the validity of a postnuptial agreement that he said made him the sole owner of the Dodgers.

Gordon ruled in December that the 2004 agreement McCourt and his ex-wife made when they bought the Dodgers and moved to California couldn’t be enforced.

The McCourts, who divorced in October after 31 years of marriage, last month asked Gordon to mediate a settlement. The judge extended yesterday’s deadline for the mediation.

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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