Jamie McCourt says estranged husband ‘fraudulently altered’ Dodgers ownership agreement
Jamie McCourt alleged Thursday that her estranged husband had “fraudulently altered” the agreement upon which he bases his claim to sole ownership of the Dodgers.
Although Jamie McCourt had challenged the validity of the agreement since the couple filed for divorce last October, the court papers submitted Thursday marked her first challenge to its authenticity.
The trial to determine ownership of the Dodgers is set to start Aug. 30, with Frank McCourt claiming the team is his alone and Jamie arguing she owns half of the team. In Thursday’s filing, Jamie asked the court to consider three versions of the disputed agreement that she says specifically exclude him from sole ownership of the team.
If the judge deems those versions valid, the case could be quickly decided in Jamie’s favor, said her attorney, Dennis Wasser.
“I don’t think there’s much to argue about,” Wasser said.
Steve Susman, the attorney for Frank McCourt, said he had no objection to letting the court consider any version of the agreement.
In a letter to Jamie’s attorneys, Susman called the allegations “twisted and distorted” and said her legal team was “grasping at straws … that don’t even exist.”
In the months since the couple filed for divorce, the sides have uncovered six versions of the agreement — three that would grant sole ownership of the Dodgers to Frank and three that would not.
There is no dispute about the existence of those versions, or that Jamie signed them. Jamie charged in her filing Thursday that Frank had engaged in “tampering” by altering the wording on the final three versions after she signed them.
Susman did not dispute that the wording had been changed — to include rather than exclude the Dodgers as Frank’s separate property — but said the lawyer that drafted the agreement made the alteration simply to correct an error.
The McCourts signed the first three versions, with what Susman says was the correct language, before they moved from Massachusetts to California. Their joint Boston attorney, Larry Silverstein, visited the McCourts at their home and explained “at the kitchen table” that the document would put the Dodgers in Frank’s name — without objection from Jamie, Susman said.
Wasser said the language in the agreement shows that Silverstein did not completely understand California law and could not properly explain to Jamie what would happen to the Dodgers in the event of divorce.
Susman said the corrected versions reflected the intent of the parties — that is, to shield the couple’s homes from creditors should any business assets falter. The plan, he said, was to separate the couple’s private assets, putting them in Jamie’s name, from their business ventures, which would go to Frank.
Wasser did not dispute that intent, but he said Jamie never would have signed an agreement to surrender her interest in the Dodgers in exchange for sole ownership of the residences. In the filing, her lawyers called the Dodgers “by far the couple’s most important asset — and Jamie’s heart’s desire.”
Said Wasser: “They weren’t trading assets. There was no quid pro quo, to trade residential property for the Dodgers. That would have been absurd. No one would have ever done that.”
What would have been truly absurd, Susman said, would have been an agreement that did not include the Dodgers — as the couple’s largest and presumably riskiest business asset — among Frank’s separate property.
“She wanted her secure nest egg,” Susman wrote to Jamie’s attorneys, “and that’s what she got.”