McCourt Divorce at an 'Impasse' on Settlement Talks
Despite months of legal wrangling and embarrassing revelations, Frank and Jamie McCourt have been unable to reach a settlement in their high-profile divorce. In the latest development, Judge Peter Lichtman, a court-appointed mediator, asked the couple to decide on his latest settlement proposal by noon on Tuesday: Frank accepted it, but Jamie apparently rejected the offer.
The terms of the proposal are confidential, and Lichtman has ordered attorneys not to discuss the offer or the mediation process.
Nonetheless, Frank's side went on the public-relations offensive Tuesday afternoon. In a statement, Frank's attorney Marc Seltzer accused Jamie of "allowing this matter to drag on further," and noted that Frank accepted the settlement proposal because "he felt it was the responsible thing to do for his family, the Dodgers organization and the entire community."
Jamie's attorneys declined to comment, citing Lichtman's orders.
"We believe that the Court ordered complete confidentiality regarding the settlement proposal and everything related to it, and we believe it would be a violation to say anything about the proposal or anything related to it," said Mike Kump, one of Jamie's lawyers, in an email to FanHouse.
The stage is now set for Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon to rule on the key issue in the case: The validity of a marital property agreement (MPA) the McCourts signed after buying the Dodgers in 2004. Frank claims the document makes him the sole owner of the team; Jamie believes it should be thrown out because there are conflicting versions of the agreement, which was doctored by one of Frank's attorneys after it was signed and notarized.
Judge Gordon has until Jan. 18 to hand down his decision. (It had been assumed that his deadline was Dec. 28, ninety days after the conclusion of the trial. But the clock did not officially begin until both sides submitted their proposed decisions in October.) No matter how Gordon rules, however, there will still be uncertainty about the Dodgers' future ownership. Frank is expected to appeal if Gordon rules in Jamie's favor, and evidence submitted in the case raised serious questions about Frank's financial resources and the team's massive debts.
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the law firm Bingham McCutchen was also consulted by Lichtman in mediation talks. Bingham has an incentive to see the McCourts settle: During the trial in September, Bingham partner Larry Silverstein admitted to altering the MPA, a legal gaffe that could expose his firm to huge legal claims. It's believed that Bingham would offer a substantial sum toward the settlement in order to avoid future litigation about Silverstein's error.
"I'm sure [Bingham's] malpractice carriers are already on notice," said Dana Lowy, a Los Angeles family-law attorney who represented Lisa Bonder-Kreiss, the ex-wife of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, in an expensive divorce suit. "When the case is this big, you're just looking for deep pockets."