May 23, 2013
The War of the McCourts
Posted on Sep 27, 2010
By Mark Heisler
In court papers, the McCourts were alleged—by Jamie’s lawyers—to have taken out $108 million in personal distributions.
There was only one thing Frank and Jamie apparently didn’t do—break any law.
Amazingly, despite the scope of the wheeling and dealing, there have been no allegations they did anything illegal.
Suppose you were so slick, no matter how many hundreds of millions you owed, you could go out and borrow hundreds of millions more.
And just as amazingly, no one was on their trail.
No one would have even known about the McCourts’ wanton juggling act if they had done only one thing ...
Unfortunately, it can be hard to split the loot with the heat coming down on you, as times changed and the boom burst.
Now the marriage, which had featured stormy confrontations, had a crack in its foundation.
Upon buying the team in 2004, Frank and Jamie had signed a property agreement in which she gave up any claim to the Dodgers for title to all their other property, which may be why they bought so much more property.
In later years, Jamie, aware the team’s value would skyrocket in 2014 when it regained its TV rights from Fox, pressed Frank to reapportion their property.
Frank was willing but estate planning foundered on the issues of Jamie’s claim to the team, and the team’s value.
As in any negotiation, there was a doomsday scenario—divorce—although Jamie’s estate lawyer, Leah Bishop, advised her client (in an e-mail that would be filed in court papers) that that was “the nuclear option.”
Only Jamie and Frank know when they had it with each other, and their versions differ by 180 degrees.
In any case, while figuring out who got what, they split up.
In 2009, they took separate vacations. Jamie went to Cape Cod with Fuller.
A day after the Dodger season ended, Frank fired Jamie from her $2-million-a-year CEO post, noting “inappropriate behavior with regard to a direct subordinate.”
Jamie tacitly acknowledged the affair with Fuller, telling the L.A. Times’ T.J. Simers that it didn’t begin “until the marriage broke up.”
So started the Mutually Assured Destruction phase.
Within weeks, TMZ reported Jamie had called 911 to keep Frank from entering their Holmby Hills home.
Frank’s lawyers issued a statement saying he was jogging by when he found “his wife swimming in the pool and her personal ‘security assistant,’ Jeff Fuller, was also at the residence.”
Jamie’s lawyers denied Fuller was there.
On Aug. 30, after 10 months of not settling this before it really got ugly, the trial began, making up in sensation what it seemed to lack in merit.
Jamie’s case is based on her insistence that she didn’t understand the 2004 property agreement—incredible as that sounds, as Jamie herself noted.
In a 2008 e-mail to the Boston attorney who drafted the document, and backed Frank’s understanding, Jamie wrote:
“Don’t forget, I was a divorce lawyer there and I am really clear on what the intended distributions were to be.”
In the same e-mail, Jamie acknowledged that it was “my fault, I guess, for not having read the post marital document and believing that you were preserving the status quo.”
This seemed to leave Boies a who-are-you-going-to-believe-me-or-your-eyes defense with worse odds than he had with Al Gore before a Supreme Court with five justices wearing “W.” buttons.
Jamie went for it anyway, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into a vintage Sitrick PR campaign, sitting down with anyone who mattered, even Simers, who had referred to her as “the Screaming Meanie.”
(As Kathleen Turner sneers in “The War of the Roses” when Michael Douglas tells her to get a good lawyer, “Best your money can buy.”)
With Frank silent, stories tended to be sympathetic narratives of what went through Jamie’s mind when this and that happened, which hardly changed the basic equation.
Wrote ESPN magazine’s Molly Knight of Jamie’s ability to remember the exact time she saw Frank’s e-mail firing her on her BlackBerry, but not where she was:
“She was alone in her home, yes, but which one? It was hard to keep them straight.”
So much for the PR war.
If defendant and claimant were pariahs, the trial was a gift from the gods as the cream of U.S. jurisprudence acknowledged their own clients’ excesses, secrets and lies.
It was Steve Susman, Frank’s lead attorney, who asserted the McCourts put “not a penny of cash” in the purchase, making the point that it was prudent for Jamie to trade her claim to the team for their other property.
Another of Frank’s lawyers, local divorce biggie Sorrell Trope (Elin Nordegren, Hugh Grant, Cary Grant), compared Jamie to Marie Antoinette after Jamie’s attorney, Dennis Wasser (Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg), set him up, detailing the royal lifestyle to justify Jamie’s request for $1 million a month.
“They lived in seven lavish homes ... flew in private jets ... had hairstylists come to their house every day,” said Wasser.
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