McCourt sideshow takes center stage
LOS ANGELES – The beautiful thing about L.A., you stand beside a fountain on a downtown street corner one late afternoon listening to lawyers talk about their tan and wealthy clients, unhappy as they may be at the moment.
But, still, tan and wealthy.
And what's just happened in a second-floor courtroom is opening arguments about who's got dibs on the six houses and who gets or is stuck with the family business, which is flourishing or tanking, depending on the telling and time of year.
Along the way, private emails go public and private agendas get exposed, so you learn certain parts of the business are tucked away in the kids' names for tax purposes, and that one 'til-death-do-we-part partner is pretty sure the other has been plotting to screw them out of millions, and that one side is quoting Sir Walter Scott while the other opts for graphics that show eggs fleeing an Easter basket, scaling a brick wall and leaping into a nest.
As the sun was cooling Monday on the corner of First and Hill streets, and the fountain was spritzing, and city buses sighed and roared away, and traffic cops blew their whistles from the intersection, what occurs to you is this is probably not the only street corner in town hosting the same kind of party.
It's just more beautifully L.A. in L.A. and on this street corner, where you learn there's not just one post-nuptial in question between Frank and Jamie McCourt, but six – and nine if you include the wayward copies – and if the McCourts bred power right-handers as well as they did post-nups the Dodgers would be in a lot better shape.
The owner of the Dodgers is due to take the stand Tuesday in Superior Court. He's the petitioner's second witness, following the lawyer who explained Monday the couple was sneaking up on yet another post-nup when the marriage fell apart, and by then everybody had lost count.
What's at stake, of course, is whether Frank McCourt will continue as sole owner of the team that, according to his lawyer's view, he built from practically nothing. The lawyer had a point there, considering he was estimating the previous owner – Fox – was losing about $75 million a year on a team that draws 3.5 million people every season. Maybe the wrong owner was on trial.
Frank was accused Monday of stealing the Dodgers away from Jamie in a bit of late-night subterfuge, his lawyer unstapling, altering and restapling the original pre-nup, which Frank's lawyers described as nothing more sinister than "typographical, clerical, assembly" issues.
Jamie arrived in a top-of-the-knees-length white dress, blew a kiss to her parents in the front row, and then was accused of ducking the financial risk involved with buying the Dodgers six years ago, shamelessly using the ballclub to further her many political, celebrity and lifestyle agendas anyway, then demanding a stake in the team when it became profitable and her marriage was disintegrating.
Two-deep, the lawyers sat six or seven wide before Judge Scott Gordon. The courtroom was filled with reporters, friends, advisors and very sturdy sheriffs. Frank, in a charcoal suit and Dodger blue-ish tie, sat up straight, faced the front, and generally was rather rigid. During breaks, questions about Manny Ramirez(notes) being sold off to the Chicago White Sox were referred to general manager Ned Colletti. Jamie crossed her legs, leaned left or right, and spun her chair in the direction of the podium or witness stand.
Outside, a guy wearing a Matt Kemp(notes) jersey was spotted in the men's room, and another man in a Dodgers jersey roamed the marble corridors. A woman asked Jamie's superstar lawyer, David Boies, for his autograph. He obliged.
No blood on day one. No bombshells. If the Dodgers are to be torn apart by floating marital property agreements, presidential aspirations and lawyer fees, it'll come on another day, garnished with more indignities.
Meantime, the men and women who represent Frank and Jamie McCourt will haul their boxes to and from Gordon's courtroom (two dollies were required by Frank's side alone), and they'll argue the parsing and forensics of every document from here to Chavez Ravine, and the Dodgers will trudge into September looking for a winning streak.
And we'll wonder how either one of them got through Major League Baseball's vetting process, and whether Jamie ("Divorce Lawyer Jamie," as Frank's attorney dubbed her) really could have failed to understand all those contracts she signed, and if Frank could be so devious as to hide a whole baseball team from his wife.
The good news: They just made $4 million on the Manny transaction. The bad news: It looks as if they're going to need it.
"Dodger fans should be hopeful that sooner or later this can be resolved," Dennis Wasser, among Jamie's attorneys, said afterward. "Unfortunately, I believe when the trial ends, it will not end things."
As for chances of a settlement, he said, "So far I haven't seen the light at the end of the tunnel."
So, on they go, Frank and Jamie McCourt fighting over the Dodgers, the world looking in, their story being told on every street corner in town.
At least they're still tan and, for the moment, wealthy.