By: Erin Hollenkamp
Divorce often leads to disputes over property rights and ownership, with disagreements about who has the right to what. While the scale and impact of these disputes can vary widely from one divorce to the next, in Los Angeles one divorce dispute could reach as high as the ownership and management of a major league baseball team.
The high-profile divorce between Los Angeles Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt is threatening to lead to a conflict over team ownership. A story by the LA Times reports that the team could become entangled "in a prolonged ownership battle that may affect the running of the club."
An anonymous high-ranking baseball source that spoke to the LA Times claims, though, that "the couple presented themselves together for the approval of Commissioner Bud Selig when they bought the team in 2004."
The source went on to offer the belief that each party will try to keep the team, and that the situation could get "pretty ugly."
Frank McCourt, as of right now, holds the final word on issues of Dodger ownership and management, as what Major League Baseball refers to as the "control person." Jamie McCourt is the Dodgers' chief executive officer. At the core of the disagreement is Frank McCourt's assertion, through his divorce attorney, that he is the baseball franchise's sole owner.
Jamie McCourt's legal representative, however, has publicly stated that if the ownership situation must be adjudicated, that the team will be ruled community property, granting 50% to each party.
Frank McCourt's lawyer has hinted that he possesses certain documentation that will confirm his client's claim to full ownership, raising questions about whether a prearranged agreement is in place that could override community property law. According to the LA Times, Jamie McCourt's divorce lawyer "said he was unaware of any such documents and said he knew of no reason why California's community property law would not apply."
Several of the McCourt's real estate purchases included agreements that Jamie McCourt would be sole owner of the properties, raising questions about whether a similar agreement might be in place regarding the Dodgers.
Whatever specific agreements may or not be in place, it would appear based on the public statements by legal representation that the issues emerging in the McCourt divorce will not resolve quickly. In the meantime, many fans have questions about how pressing financially driven baseball decisions will be made.
To navigate the complex divorce process, Frank and Jamie McCourt have each hired several of the most prominent divorce attorneys in Los Angeles.
Frank McCourt is represented by Marshall Grossman, who has been listed among the "100 Most Influential Lawyers" in California by the legal news source "The Daily Journal." According to his Web site, Grossman has either represented for or consulted with such corporations as Apple Computer, Inc., Blockbuster, Cirque du Soleil, and Guess? Jeans and counseled celebrities like J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Larry King.
Jamie McCourt has hired attorney Dennis Wasser, whose clients have included, according to the LA Times, celebrities like Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, former Dodger Steve Garvey and Stevie Wonder.
The McCourts announced their divorce at a strange time, at least in baseball terms. The announcement came as the team prepared to face the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 National League Championship Series, as the Dodgers continued what fans hope is a march to the World Series.
Even after announcing their separation, the McCourts watched the Dodgers from the same field-level box during the first game of a seven game series. A headline from the LA Times read, "There's never a good time for divorce, but couldn't the McCourts have waited a couple of weeks?"