McCourts each express disbelief over the other’s interpretation of agreement
For the first time in their divorce trial, Frank and Jamie McCourt testified on the same day. That made their differing opinions on the marital property agreement that is at the core of their case ever the more obvious Friday.
His take on her thinking that any agreement should leave her all of the couple’s houses but split ownership of the Dodgers: “Absurd.”
Her reaction to his belief that she would sign an agreement that did not leave her a share of the Dodgers: “Preposterous.”
At issue is the validity of the agreement they signed that nominally puts the houses in her name and business assets — including the Dodgers — in his.
Jamie maintains they had enacted similar agreements when they lived in Massachusetts, which is not a community property state. She has said she did not believe that the agreement would govern how assets would be divided in a divorce in California.
The separation of the houses was only a hedge against business creditors, Jamie said. Otherwise, she believed she and Frank were partners in most everything, including the Dodgers purchase.
“The notion that this was not something that we wanted to get together — or that I would just give it up without remembering that and without worrying about what that would mean — is preposterous,” she said.
So ended the first week of the trial. Despite testimony about a couple that was constantly bickering, in court each has been the picture of calm and stoicism no matter what was being said about them. On Friday, he wore a perfectly tailored David Heil suit with a blue tie. She wore a pale lavender Michael Kors jacket and dress. Both donned reading glasses on the stand when asked to look at documents.
The trial now goes on hiatus — because of scheduling issues — for two weeks. A settlement is unlikely before then, according to sources on both sides. Jamie McCourt will resume her testimony Sept. 20, and she is expected to be followed by Larry Silverstein, the Boston lawyer who drafted the disputed agreement that Frank McCourt claims gives him sole ownership of the Dodgers.
After that testimony, the sources said, the sides should be in a better position to assess the case. At that point, there could be talk of a settlement.
Out of the weeklong thicket of testimony about e-mails, legal bills and drafts of documents, a picture has emerged of a roller-coaster marriage — albeit one salved with financial advisors, private jets and the luxury of going watchless. (Frank said he rarely wore one.)
And then there were the multiple houses from coast to coast, including two on Charing Cross Road in Holmby Hills, two in Malibu and a Cape Cod estate. They were what Frank called Jamie’s “menu of houses.” When he wanted to buy and keep a $28-million John Lautner house — referred to in court as “Malibu One” — she insisted that it go under her name, he testified. Portraying himself as eager to please her, he acquiesced on that and other financial matters.
In an e-mail to Jamie in which he suggests that they reduce their debt, Frank complained how difficult that was when the debt “is a moving target, i.e. when 4 houses become 8 … these are all really big commitments right now financially but I am willing to do it because I want to make you happy.”
Frank’s lawyer Steve Susman pointed out that McCourt seemed reluctant to challenge his wife. And Frank told the court he paid for the houses, even taking a $60-million mortgage on his Chavez Ravine property and using two-thirds of it to pay down her debt.
But he didn’t like the way they were living. “We had a disagreement about how many houses you need, how much security you need, how many people you need around you,” Frank said
Outside the courtroom, Michael Kump, one of Jamie’s lawyers, rebutted Frank’s account.
“It’s a road they walked down hand in hand,” Kump said of the house collecting. “The idea that Frank was just going along with this to appease his wife is not credible. He was involved in picking out the houses …They were just like any other husband and wife — except with a few more houses.”
When Jamie McCourt took the stand midafternoon, she said they were also united in their desire to acquire the Dodgers. Although Frank testified earlier in the week that she thought buying the Dodgers was too risky, she said she fully supported the idea.
“I thought it was an amazingly exciting opportunity for the whole family,” she said. “The fact that we had worked so hard to get to that point where we had that opportunity was astounding.”
When Friday’s court session was over, the lawyers repaired to a terrace for their last media briefing — something of a postgame show — of the week. Their clients may show little emotion, but the lawyers spar and spin with gusto.
Asked what the score was in the trial, Jamie’s attorney Dennis Wasser grinned and quipped, “You never want to — since the judge is the ultimate umpire — tell the judge what the score is.”
But Susman didn’t hesitate, saying: “I think the score is 8-2.”