A judge ruled on Tuesday that the Los Angeles Dodgers are in effect jointly owned by newly divorced couple Frank and Jamie McCourt, setting the stage for further wrangling over the baseball team.
Sports industry analysts said the decision, if upheld, increases the likelihood the National League franchise will be sold because neither of the McCourts is believed to have enough cash to buy out the other.
Capping more than a year of the McCourts’ public marital discord and uncertainty over the Dodgers’ future, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon tossed out a 2004 post-nuptial agreement that Frank McCourt contended gave him full control over the team.
Gordon’s 100-page ruling in effect means the Dodgers, valued by Forbes magazine in April at US$727 million, stands as community property under California law, as asserted by Jamie McCourt.
Frank McCourt has said his legal team would appeal should the judge’s decision go against him. However, Jamie McCourt’s lawyer, Dennis Wasser, suggested the decision would lead to resumed negotiations.
“I’m hoping the other side will come to the bargaining table and we could consummate a reasonable resolution of all the issues,” Wasser said. “The team deserves it, I think the fans deserve it and hopefully that will happen.”
Last week, another judge assigned as a mediator in the McCourts’ property dispute declared an impasse in efforts to reach a negotiated resolution, after Jamie McCourt apparently rejected a proposed settlement her ex-spouse accepted.
The terms of that proposal were kept confidential.
One future ownership scenario could be a deal giving one of the McCourts leadership of the club, with a third party holding the largest equity stake, said Marc Ganis, president of consulting firm Sportscorp, which advised the Tribune Co in its record US$845 million sale of the Chicago Cubs last year.
Ganis suggested the Dodgers could form a team-owned regional sports network in the second-largest US TV market once local broadcast rights for the Dodgers’ current TV deal with News Corp’s Fox expire in 2013.
“You could see the Dodgers’ value being something north of US$900 million” under those circumstances, he said, calling the team “one of the jewels in baseball.”
The McCourts’ divorce was finalized on Oct. 26. The couple bought the Los Angeles baseball team in 2004.