McCourts' Lawyers File Proposed Decisions; Wait Begins on Dodgers' Fate
Gordon's decision, which may arrive as early as next week, is likely to trigger more intrigue about the future of one of the sports world's most iconic franchises. The Dodgers have been dogged by questions about the McCourts' management and financial resources since last November, when Jamie filed for divorce after the Dodgers lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series.
The McCourts signed conflicting versions of the MPA in late March and early April of 2004, shortly after purchasing the Dodgers for about $430 million from Fox Entertainment Group. One version gives Frank control of the team, while the other specifically excludes Frank from sole ownership, thereby making the Dodgers "community property" that belongs equally to both McCourts.
The documents filed Monday articulate how each spouse's lawyers envision Gordon's decision. As one of Jamie's attorneys said after the couple's divorce trial ended earlier this month, the statements are "the legal equivalent of writing your own recommendations for a college application."
In the proposals, the McCourts' respective legal teams reiterated the main points they argued in court. Jamie's side focused on the discrepancies between the two versions of the MPA, as well as the conduct of Larry Silverstein, the couple's former attorney in Massachusetts. Silverstein admitted during the 11-day trial that he doctored one version of the MPA after it had been signed and notarized, conceding on the stand that he took out the section that made the team community property and replaced it with the version that gave Frank sole ownership.
According to Jamie's proposal, "there was no mutual assent by the parties to all of the material terms in any purported contract. As a result, they wrote, all versions of the MPA should be invalidated, and the court should make the Dodgers community property. Furthermore, they contend that neither spouse intended the MPA to govern how their assets would be divided in a divorce, and that it was only created to protect their homes from claims by business creditors.
Jamie McCourt's team also argued that Silverstein and his firm, Bingham McCutchen, defrauded Jamie by purporting to represent her interests in connection with the creation of the MPA. (Bingham, which also represents the Dodgers, has taken the position that it always represented Frank and his business interests -- not the couple or Jamie individually.)
Frank's lawyers, as they did in court, honed in on the version of the MPA that makes Frank the sole owner of the team. They say it was the only agreement that both parties ever actually read, and that it reflected the couple's long-standing practice of putting their business assets -- including the Dodgers -- in Frank's name, and keeping their residences and most bank accounts in Jamie's name.
Frank's side noted that Jamie, a former family law attorney, was the "driving force" behind the creation of the document, and that she actively refused to have any legal title or financial stake in the Dodgers.
As for Silverstein's switch of the documents? Frank's lawyers termed it a "scrivener's error" that was not known to either spouse when they signed the original documents. In any case, they argue, Jamie understood that assets titled in Frank's name would become his separate property in the event of a divorce in California.
The couple's lawyers have had several unsuccessful sessions with a mediator in an attempt to negotiate a settlement, including a brief session on Oct. 9. Regardless of how Gordon rules, the losing spouse is expected to appeal. Neither Major League Baseball nor MLB commissioner Bud Selg has commented publicly on the case.