McCourts Settle Divorce, and That’s Not As Exciting As We Once Thought It Would Be

It’s funny that this is the day we’ve supposedly been waiting for for nearly two years, yet now that it’s here it feels like an afterthought, one I’m writing about mostly because people will wonder why I didn’t rather than because it comes with any huge new importance: Bill Shaikin is reporting that Frank and Jamie McCourt have finally settled their divorce.

Frank and Jamie McCourt have reached a divorce settlement under which she would get about $130 million and relinquish any claim to a share of the Dodgers, multiple people familiar with the agreement told The Times.

The settlement would remove Jamie McCourt as an obstacle to Frank McCourt’s plan to retain ownership of the team by selling the Dodgers’ television rights in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The agreement also would appear to set up a winner-take-all court showdown for the Dodgers between Frank McCourt and Commissioner Bud Selig.

That’s all well and good that another of the many barriers to finally ending this nightmare seems to be gone, but as Shaikin notes, this hasn’t been about Frank vs. Jamie for nearly a year. The fact that Jamie no longer stands in the way is nice, but is definitely more of an appetizer to the main course of Frank vs. Bud & MLB we’re going to see in court starting in a few weeks.

Besides, where is exactly is Frank getting $130 million to give to Jamie? It was only on Friday that Shaikin reported that “a combination of debt load, tax liability plus a loan assumed in bankruptcy could wipe out much, if not all, of his profit.” Remember, this isn’t the first time they reportedly came to an agreement, since we were talking about this in June, too. Of course, that agreement was worthless from the start, since it assumed that Selig would approve a new television contract, which he was certainly never going to do.

On the other hand, at least we now have only one awful McCourt clawing to retain ownership, if this report is true. So there’s that.

The Collected Sins of the Frank & Jamie McCourt Era


The McCourts, as I hardly need to remind you, continue to take their battle against each other and Major League Baseball to new and ridiculous heights. Or lows. Every day, it seems, they or one of their cohorts are either saying something humiliating or backpedaling against new allegations of past improprieties. You don’t want to say it’s to the point that nothing else can shock you… but it’s hard to think that it’s far off. Really, does anyone have any respect whatsoever for these two any longer?

In fact, the list of moments in which they’ve embarrassed the Dodgers and/or the fans has grown so quickly that it has become very difficult to keep track of it all. Today, we rectify that, by collecting all of the events which have caused us to cover our faces in shame. It hasn’t been all bad, of course, and you can point to some positives during their tenure, but not nearly enough to compete with the horrors they’ve visited upon us.

Two caveats here. First, this is just about the activities of the McCourt family and their immediate cronies, not of the entire organization, so unless you can find concrete evidence that McCourt ordered Ned Colletti to give Juan Pierre $44m over Colletti’s objections, it doesn’t belong here. Second, I’m not including two items that many will see as glaring omissions. Vladimir Guerrero signed with the Angels before McCourt officially took over in 2004, and the Carlos Santana trade may not have been as much about money as we like to think it was. Frank McCourt has done enough awful things to this franchise, so no need to fabricate any others.

This is intended to be a living list, which I’ll link to on the sidebar and update as needed, so if you think I’ve missed anything, do let me know – but be able to back it up with proof.  If I’ve misstated anything here, I’m happy to hear that feedback as well. Unless noted otherwise, all items here are Frank’s. The list is presented in rough, though not absolute, chronological order.

  1. Purchased Dodgers almost entirely on debt. (Yes, MLB deserves a huge amount of the blame for allowing this to happen in the first place.)
  2. Split team and related properties into a tangled web of entities which pay into themselves, the ramifications of which are only being realized now.
  3. Charged the Dodgers rent to play in their own stadium, money which went to one of his many holding companies.
  4. Allowed incumbent GM Dan Evans to twist in the wind, claiming he was a candidate for his own job, before firing him just prior to spring training in 2004.
  5. Fired CMO Lon Rosen and VP of communications Gary Miereanu less than a year after McCourt had hired them, the first in what would be a long string of front-office departures.
  6. Conducted managerial search behind GM Paul DePodesta’s back, as DePodesta was interviewing his own candidates.
  7. Fired DePodesta a month after an injury-plagued 2005 season, after having allowed him just one offseason to make moves, most of which – Derek Lowe, Jeff Kent, J. D. Drew – worked out well.
  8. Placed two sons on the payroll despite neither having an identifiable position with the club.
  9. Unveiled plans for massive upgrades to Dodger Stadium, to be completed for Opening Day 2012… most of which, you may have noticed, never took place.
  10. Paid Vladimir Shpunt, an elderly Russian self-proclaimed “faith healer” who knew little about baseball,  approximately $600k to send the team ”V Energy” from his home in Boston. Yes, that’s a thing which really happened.
  11. Allowed merchandise/advertisements to be produced which celebrated both the 1962 and 1966 World Series championship seasons and the career of former catcher Lou Campanella, who wore #42 with the Dodgers. (added 7/18/11 – thanks, Luke)
  12. Forced out VP of communications Camille Johnston, who announced she was leaving just two weeks after Charles Steinberg was hired. At the time, in December 2007, she was the fourth communications chief to leave since the McCourts purchased the team.
  13. Make that five, since Steinberg left when the divorce was announced, along with the firing of six employees who Steinberg had brought on. (One of whom, admittedly, was a roommate of mine in college. He made out with a friend of mine who later joined a convent. Still don’t know how to feel about that.)
  14. Announced separation hours before the start of the 2009 NLCS, creating a public distraction at the worst possible time.
  15. Fired CEO Jamie and changed the locks on her office hours after the 2009 NLCS ended.
  16. Planned to reduce payroll while doubling ticket prices over the next several years.
  17. Asked Dodger fans to choose between talented ballplayers and fields for poor children. (This one, and the next four, are just on Jamie.)
  18. Reportedly engaged in an affair with a team employee, bodyguard/driver Jeff Fuller.
  19. Sent said employee to Taiwan, where he claimed to represent the Dodgers on a bizarre marketing trip…
  20. but not before taking a European vacation with Fuller on the Dodgers’ dime.
  21. Asked for nearly $500k per month in spousal support, including flowers, hair and makeup, free tickets to all NL games, and access to a private jet.
  22. Reduced draft pick spending in 2008-09 to the lowest level of any team in baseball.
  23. Allegedly fired 40 employees days before Christmas 2009, which at least one employee says was made public knowledge at the team Christmas party.
  24. Fired team president Dennis Mannion, who had experience in all four pro sports, in addition to three of Mannion’s employees – and replaced him with Geoff Wharton, who had only a real estate background.
  25. Paid Howard Sunkin, a Frank associate and head of the Dodgers Dream Foundation, a salary commensurate with a charity nearly 90 times as large. (The money was later repaid.)
  26. Repaid over $100,000 to the charity that had improperly went to Jamie McCourt.
  27. Reduced international spending on prospects to the lowest level of any team in baseball.
  28. Took at least $100m out of the team for personal use.
  29. Considered plans to eventually run for president. (Jamie)
  30. Saw at least 22 front-office employees either quit or be fired between September 2009 – December 2010.
  31. Attempted to procure a $200m loan from Fox in February 2011 to meet expenses, which was rejected by Bud Selig.
  32. Borrowed about $55m from Fox on a personal loan to meet early 2011 expenses, circumventing Selig.
  33. Fired security chief Ray Maytorena and left post unfilled for four months, a period in which Giants fan Bryan Stow was nearly beaten to death in the parking lot.
  34. Waited days to respond publicly to Stow incident.
  35. Sued by his former law firm, Bingham McCutchen.
  36. Reportedly investigated by the IRS for not paying taxes.
  37. Hired Steve Soboroff, who quit barely two months later after a disastrous stint that included an outright lie about security, which McCourt was forced to apologize for.
  38. Watched as MLB appointed Tom Schieffer to monitor the team.
  39. Went on New York media tour pathetically trying to drum up public support.
  40. Attempted a second deal to sell future television rights to Fox for below-market value, which was also rejected by Selig.
  41. Sued by the family of Bryan Stow.
  42. Claimed, falsely, that not a penny of Fox deal would go to settle divorce case. (See next item).
  43. Announced sham divorce settlement that was not only untenable because it depended entirely on Selig’s unlikely approval of Fox deal, but confirmed that $173.5m would actually go for personal use.
  44. Stated that he lived in a one bedroom apartment, which is really a $30,000/month luxury hotel.
  45. Met the May 30, 2011 payroll by getting sponsors to pay in advance at a heavily discounted rate.
  46. Threatened to sue MLB, despite having signed a document agreeing that he would not when he took ownership.
  47. Claimed that the MLB takeover was the cause of low attendance, as opposed to criminal ownership, horrendously bad PR, stadium security concerns, or an underwhelming on-field product.
  48. Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  49. Barred MLB-appointed overseers from Dodger Stadium. MLB responded by demanding that their people be allowed back in.
  50. Lined up an incredibly lousy deal ($4.5m fee, 10% interest) on a loan to make June 30, 2011 payroll. (7/1/11 updateit gets worse. The $4.5m fee is upon completion of the loan, and is separate from a $5m upfront fee to make the deal.)
  51. Included in bankruptcy argument that since the Dodgers beat the Twins 15-0 shortly after filing was announced, “I think this convincingly disproves the argument bankruptcy is bad for baseball.”
  52. Bounced checks to Dodger Stadium security guards and ushers. (Added 6/30/11)
  53. Reportedly attempted to take an additional $20m out of the team in April 2011, even after the concerns about making payroll had arisen. (Added 7/6/11)
  54. Failed to convince a judge to accept McCourt-arranged financing in favor of MLB-provided loans, with the judge noting “previously undisclosed financial stake in the Highbridge financing had compromised [McCourt's] judgment.”
  55. Cited by Vero Beach, FL, for improperly maintaining a team-owned plot of land and vacant house, with terms such as “nuisance” and “eyesore” thrown around. (Added 7/27/11)
  56. Sued by the Dodgers own broadcasters, Fox Sports West, for attempting to sell television rights before Fox’s exclusive contract is over. (Added 9/28/11)
  57. Countersued the two men accused of beating Stow, claiming they should be held liable for the attack rather than McCourt, which is fine – but which included comments by McCourt lawyer Jerome Jackson indicating that Stow shares liability for the jumping that ended with his head split open in the parking lot, which is much less fine. (Added 10/29/11)

So we start off with 50 items. How large will this list need to grow to before this nightmare is over?

This Has Been a Long Time Coming For the McCourts

Earlier today, Tony Jackson of ESPNLA penned an open letter to Frank McCourt, asking him to sell the team and leave town, both for the sake of the franchise & their fans and the McCourt family itself. It’s rare that you see a beat writer so openly turning on the team (though he is of course absolutely right to do so), and I commend Jackson for doing it so eloquently and thoughtfully.

It also reminded me that I did the same thing nearly two years ago. I bring that up not in an any sort of an attempt to say that it was my idea first (clearly, dozens of similar items have been written), but because when I went back and read it today, it’s amazing to see how we felt at the time without even knowing just how bad things would get.

This was from October 23, 2009, about a week after the news of the separation and just after the Phillies bounced the Dodgers out of the NLCS.

Frank & Jamie;

Hi. How’re things? Oh, right. That. Yes, we were all very sorry to hear about the impending end of your marriage. I think we all know more than a few people at this point who’ve been through that (it took me until 28 to date a girl whose parents weren’t divorced), and there’s no question it can be a terrible and traumatic experience. So, our utmost condolences to the both of you and your family, and we hope that if reconciliation is no longer an option, then at least this trying issue can be worked out as painlessly as possible.

Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that. See, what should be happening here is that your personal issues are no different from the 8 billion other divorces that happen every year. And of course, if you weren’t who you are, that’s exactly what would be happening. Your marital issues would be none of our business, just like every other person’s.

The difference here, of course, is that you (both of you? one of you? who even knows at this point?) are the owners of the Dodgers, and it is only in that capacity that you really matter to us. Don’t get me wrong, because I know how callous that sounds, and I’m sure you’re lovely people. It’s just that we’re in this because we’re baseball fans, and if you didn’t run the Dodgers your lives would be no more or less important to me than any other person’s who I have not and will not ever meet.

So when the news of your divorce came out on the day of Game 1 of the NLCS, that was troubling enough. In the days since, rather than celebrate the end of the Dodger season and plans for the offseason, we’ve had to listen to quotes like “they’re trashing each other terribly. It’s going to be World War III” and now see the news that Jamie’s been fired from her position as CEO, while promising a lawsuit.

I’ve yet to read an account that doesn’t characterize this as being an extremely ugly situation. And yet again, I don’t really care about the “winner” of this situation insomuch as who gets the two (at least!) mansions you own. Remember, we only really care about how this is going to impact the Dodgers. We’re workaday slobs, you know, so watching our favorite team succeed is the only respite from our otherwise crushing lives. Or something like that.

We all saw what happened in San Diego, when John Moores got divorced and was forced to drastically slash the payroll and sell the club, right? Well, as crushing as this NLCS loss was, the fact remains that the Dodgers have won a playoff series in each of the last two years and still have a nice young core of talent. The future should be bright. So if this team goes downhill because of your petty bitching, well, that’s just unforgivable.

Even worse, this is hardly your first misstep. First, we had to watch as you bought a team, financed by debt, that you really couldn’t afford. That led to such atrocities as having to include catcher Carlos Santana (who’s only won the MVP of his league in each of the last two seasons) in the Casey Blake deal just to save $2m, rather than use a lesser prospect. He’s probably going to be the Indians’ starting catcher next year, and with how badly Russell Martin’s fallen off the cliff, don’t you think he would have been a nice player to have right now?

Or how about firing Dan Evans – sort of, by not relieving him of his duties but by telling him that they were looking for his replacement, and that he could interview for his own job - just three weeks before camp started in 2004? Or the sloppy way in which Paul DePodesta was canned? Say what you will about DePodesta (not to start that war again), but what’s more egregious – giving a GM just one offseason to remake the team, or not firing him until a month after the season ended, with him interviewing managerial candidates while you – unbeknownst to him – conducted your own search?

Then there was the absolute horror of the comments that Jamie made about Dodger fans having to choose between signing Manny or building parks for kids, which – in addition to coming right before buying that second mansion - infuriated us all so much that I have to reprint part of how we felt about it last winter:

Do you ever read something and you want to say three sentences at once in reply, but you have to force your brain to relax and just do one at a time so it’ll make sense? Because right now I’m not sure which thought is trying to push its way out of my head first: the idea that paying for 50 baseball fields is somehow costing enough that a top free agent is no longer affordable (seriously, how much did these fields cost? Is the grass made out of emeralds? Do the kids get Hall of Famers to coach every position) or the idea that Jamie McCourt basically just said “if you want the Dodgers to get good, though expensive, players, then you’re a monster who hates children.” Because, you know, when the Dodgers went out and got Manny and sold about ten billion $300 replica jerseys and fake dreadlocks and playoff tickets, all of you were bad people for supporting that expensive player and giving all that money to the McCourts.

All of which is a long way of saying that, despite the recent success on the field, you’ve done plenty to enrage Dodger fans – and remember, if we’re not “Dodger fans”, then you are two completely nameless, faceless people to us.

Don’t let your personal issues get in the way of the enjoyment of millions of Dodger fans around the world, because if – as seems likely – this devolves into a path of scorched earth and courtroom rhetoric that leads to the selling off of assets on the field and a string of losing seasons like in San Diego, you might still own the team, and you might have won in the eyes of the law, but you’ll still be a pariah in the eyes of Dodger fans everywhere.

Fix this quickly and privately, or sell the team. Now. You may be striving for the spotlight, but you’re not bigger than the Dodgers, and it’s your association with them that’s brought you fame – not vice versa.

Yours,
MSTI

That was about 20 months or so ago, and other than the still uncertain fact that the Santana deal may not just have been about the $2m, there’s not a single thing I’d take back there. We were worried, coming off of two NLCS appearances, that the team would fall apart on the field. It’s happened. We were scared that we’d have to witness years of two pompous, selfish, arrogant nitwits engaging in a public cash grab while the team and fans suffered. That happened too. Remember, this was all before the true facts came out about just how much money they were siphoning off for personal use, before any talk of Russian faith healers, before any unwelcome security concerns at the ballpark, before MLB stepped in to monitor the team, and before the bi-weekly guessing game of “will they make payroll?” We didn’t know any of that yet, and we were still terrified about what these two would do.

It also reminds me that we didn’t like the pair very much even before the divorce, a fact which I think is often lost today. Even as apprehensive as we were at the time, none of us could possibly have predicted just how bad it would get. These two clowns needed to be rid of the team years ago. As Jackson says, the clock is ticking on their regime. Do the right thing.

Winter Meetings, Day 2 (Updated)

Yesterday was a ton of fun, right? As long as you realize that 99% of what you hear is an outright lie, this can be a hilariously entertaining time of year. Just try to remember not to completely kill teams on rumors that may be totally unfounded until the deals actually go down, okay?

Just like yesterday, I’ll keep updating this with Dodger-related news and rumors throughout the day. Don’t forget, there’s an added bonus today, since we expect that Judge Gordon will hand down his decision on the McCourt divorce case.

Updated, 10:30am PST:

Jon Morosi with some news

#Dodgers could sign a RH-hitting OF this week. They’ve looked at Diaz, Frenchy, Billy Hall. #LA

Once #Dodgers sign a new outfielder, Xavier Paul could be available via trade. #LA #MLB

I’ve been saying Paul would be gone for weeks. Still believe it.

******

Updated, 8:56am PST:

Well, this is a thing that happened…  (via Molly Knight)

Breaking: Judge in Dodger divorce trial rules for Jamie McCourt, throws out marital property agreement.

Obviously, that’s a decision that will need a lot more analysis, but basically it means that the judge didn’t buy the document that said the Dodgers belong to Frank while the properties belong to Jamie. This is probably good news if you were hoping for a sale, but this is going to drag on forever before anything like that happens.

******

Updated, 7:57am PST:

Per Buster Olney, it’s a done deal…

Vicente Padilla and Dodgers have an agreement on a one-year, $2 million deal, pending physical.

Love this, love this, love this. (Now wait for the incentives to add up to $8m).

******

Updated, 7:22am PST:

Ken Gurnick with news on Padilla…

The Dodgers and free-agent pitcher Vicente Padilla moved close to agreement on a one-year, $2 million (plus incentives) contract that would bring this year’s Opening Day starter back to the club as a swingman, according to multiple baseball sources. Padilla, who missed time with arm and neck injuries, would essentially become the sixth starter and long reliever, capable of spot starting, pitching multiple innings of relief and even providing insurance for the late innings should closer Jonathan Broxton struggle as he did in the second half this year

If this is the deal – one year, $2m (plus incentives) – then that’s outstanding. I love it, becuase Padilla was excellent at times last year and would provide amazing depth. I’m just shocked that he’d really take such a small guarantee. There’s not better out there for him?

******

Original post:

Let’s kick it off with notes from a few of our preferred sources…

Molly Knight:

Source: Dodgers and Padilla getting closer, deal should happen soon.

We’ve been hearing the “Vicente returns” rumors for a while now, and most of them say he’ll be in some sort of hybrid starter/reliever role. Jon Heyman did say yesterday that he’d return to the rotation, but that could just be a communication breakdown over the short form of Twitter. Since you’re obviously not trading Clayton Kershaw or the three guys you just signed, that’d have to mean that Chad Billingsley was on the move, and I just can’t see that happening.

Tony Jackson:

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ search for a left fielder has been narrowed to free agents Matt Diaz and Scott Podsednik and a third outfielder whose name remains a mystery, according to a well-placed source.

I’m not going to say anything here you haven’t already heard me say this week, but the two being in competition makes no sense. Diaz is younger, much more powerful, better at getting on base, and at least as good (if not better) in the outfield. Podsednik is better than Diaz at precisely one thing – stealing bases – but he gets thrown out so much that it’s barely even worth it.

Besides, as I’ve said ad nauseum, the Dodgers need at least one righty outfielder and preferably two to spot for Andre Ethier and Jay Gibbons. Signing yet another lefty outfielder makes no sense at all; with the way the roster is coming together I’m not even sure I’d put Xavier Paul (another lefty, one who’s out of minor-league options) on it right now, but if you do need another lefty Paul is certainly preferable to Podsednik..

As for the “mystery outfielder”? We don’t know for sure, but Knight did mention Austin Kearns yesterday.

Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA:

On latest @JonahKeri podcast, A’s AGM David Forst said Oakland offered more $$ & more yrs to Jamey Carroll than 2/$3.85m he got from Dodgers

Didn’t expect to be talking much about Jamey Carroll this week, but I believe this qualifies as “news we did not know”.

Dodgers Lose in More Ways Than One

Yes, the Dodgers lost yet again in another in a long string of otherwise unremarkable games. Really, even Clayton Richard is tossing shutouts at them now? And Joe Torre claims the club hasn’t quit. Other than A.J. Ellis continuing his hot streak with two more hits, this could have been just about any game from the last month – barely even worth mentioning.

Of course, the big news tonight occurred far from Dodger Stadium, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (and again, I can’t say enough about his work on this) is reporting that the McCourt divorce case is expected to be resolved via a settlement. This isn’t good news because, well:

In any settlement, Frank would be expected to retain control of the Dodgers and Jamie would be expected to bow out. The McCourts had negotiated before the divorce trial began Aug. 30, but they were hundreds of millions of dollars apart.

If you were hoping this ugliness would end in a sale resulting from the forced split of the club, this isn’t a step in that direction – Frank would hang on to the team, and that’s not good for anyone. As always, follow Josh Fisher and Molly Knight for play-by-play from the courthouse.