Jamie McCourt asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to order the immediate sale of the Dodgers, in a filing submitted on Wednesday and made public on Thursday.
The request, if granted, could spare Commissioner Bud Selig from deciding whether to seize the club from owner Frank McCourt and risk a legal challenge to the powers of the commissioner’s office.
In the filing, Jamie McCourt alleged that her ex-husband, Frank McCourt, had endangered the value of the Dodgers through his “mismanagement,” and she requested that the judge overseeing the couple’s divorce put the club up for sale so both parties could reap the maximum value from the primary asset of their marriage.
“Frank’s acts ? have brought the Dodgers franchise to the brink of financial ruin,” the filing says.
In a statement, Jamie McCourt said she hoped the filing would help the Dodgers. “As I’ve said all along, my goal is to resolve this situation for my family in a way that also advances the best interests of the Dodgers fans, players and franchise,” she said. “This motion will hopefully provide some momentum in the right direction.”
Steve Sugerman, the spokesman for Frank McCourt, had no comment Wednesday night, and neither did Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball. In her filing, Jamie McCourt urges Judge Scott Gordon to act before Major League Baseball can seize the Dodgers, arguing the highest sale price could be achieved if couple sells the team, not the league.
“MLB is under no obligation to maximize the proceeds of such a sale,” the filing says. Jamie McCourt specifically asks for a sale of “the Dodger assets,” including the team and its media rights, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots. Under McCourt management, the team, the stadium and the parking lots are separate entities, and Frank McCourt has not ruled out the possibility of selling the team but keeping the stadium and/or the land.
In December, Gordon threw out a marital property agreement that would have granted Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers. At the time, Frank McCourt promised to use another legal avenue to establish the Dodgers as his separate property, but he has yet to file any supporting documents in court.
In the meantime, presuming the team is considered community property under California law, Jamie McCourt has asserted her right to approve what Frank McCourt says is a $3-billion television agreement between the Dodgers and Fox, a deal that Frank McCourt says would solve the club’s financial troubles and would rank at or above the value of recent baseball broadcast contracts.
In her filing, Jamie McCourt claims the agreement “may be below market” and argues that “well-capitalized new owners [should] have the opportunity and freedom to consider all options regarding the Dodgers’ long-term media rights.”
Fox does not plan to move forward with the deal unless Jamie McCourt approves it, for fear of her contesting the contract in court, according to two people briefed on the matter. Selig has said he would not consider the deal until after his investigation into the Dodgers’ finances is complete, and he has offered no assurances about when the probe would be complete.
Frank McCourt met with Selig last week and said he “emphasized the importance of timing” with regard to approval of the Fox deal, since McCourt is in danger of missing the Dodgers’ May 31 payroll. If he cannot meet payroll, Selig could pay the salaries, seize the team and put it up for sale.
Frank McCourt has argued that Selig has essentially seized the team already. He decried the action as “un-American” and refused to rule out a legal challenge, saying only that he would “protect my rights.”
In announcing the investigation last month, Selig also took over financial control of the Dodgers. He appointed former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer as a trustee and empowered him to authorize all transactions over $5,000.
In the process, Selig has assembled an executive team that could run the Dodgers’ business operations through months of a sale process -- or years of a court fight. Selig has made no appointments to the Dodgers’ baseball operations staff.
In addition to Schieffer, the executives overseeing the Dodgers include John McHale Jr., the former president of the Detroit Tigers and the trustee who oversaw the Texas Rangers through their bankruptcy process last year, and John Allen, the former chief operating officer of the Cincinnati Reds.
If Gordon does not order the team sold, Jamie McCourt asks that the judge remove Frank McCourt as the spouse in control of the Dodgers and install her in that position.
Frank McCourt fired her as chief executive officer in October 2009, amid the start of the divorce proceedings, in a termination letter that charged her with “insubordination, non-responsiveness, failure to follow procedures and inappropriate behavior with regard to a direct subordinate” -- the last charge a reference to an affair she had with her driver. Jamie McCourt served in executive roles with the Dodgers, including vice chairman and president, from the time the team was purchased in 2004.
“The team was better run during that period,” according to the filing, “than during the disastrous management in the year and a half since Frank wrongfully terminated Jamie and scores of other loyal and highly competent Dodger employees.”
The Dodgers have sold an average of 36,711 tickets through their first 23 home games this year, down 16% from the same number of home games last year. At that pace, the Dodgers would sell fewer than 3 million tickets in a full season for the first time since 1992.
The Dodgers also are in third place in the National League West, in danger of posting consecutive losing seasons for the first time in 24 years.