(Michelle Mitchell also contributed to this article)
With the much publicized divorce proceedings between Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, set to begin in less than two weeks, fans across Dodgertown are primarily concerned about one thing—who will control the franchise heading into the 2011 season?
Basically, there's three possible outcomes in terms of what may happen with the Dodgers organization.
First, in some shape or form, Jamie McCourt could be awarded ownership of the team. This seems the most unlikely of the three, despite the nearly $10 million dollars Jamie is expected to pay out to her defense brigade. Frank's name alone is all over the franchise, and the marital assets are in a complete state of disarray. Although Jamie may come out on top in overall wealth, chances of her being awarded sole possession of the club are next to none.
Next, Frank could maintain his position as primary owner and chairman, and continue to oversee daily operations of the Dodgers for years into the future. There's a reasonable chance of this being the outcome, yet it's the last thing the Dodger faithful desires to occur. Based on the immoral and unethical business practices that have already been revealed before the divorce proceedings have even begun, Frank McCourt has no real passion for the Dodger legacy or devotion to the state of baseball in general. It's obvious that his interests lie primarily in generating as much revenue from the organization as possible.
Last, as a result of several different scenarios, the franchise could be placed on the market to be sold. The problem with this, however, is if the initial rulings are appealed, Frank could conceivably maintain ownership for a number of years as things get sorted out in appellate court. If Frank sees the writing on the wall that he must sell, but maintains control of the franchise for any extended period of time, chances are that he will milk every possible dime from the Dodgers before he ultimately relinquishes control.
As it stands right now, there are more than enough reasons for Commissioner Bud Selig to intervene even before some type of ruling is imposed in court. Quite possibly, Selig may have already made contact with Frank to convince him to sell before things become dire and Frank is stripped of ownership.
Frank McCourt can argue until he's Dodger Blue in the face, but it's too late now to convince anyone otherwise that he can change his practices and conduct business based on the best interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers as a whole.
During his tenure as owner it was obvious that many needed improvements needed to be made to better the organization, yet Frank decided to spend sums of money surpassing six figures to hire a Russian wizard to send energy waves from over 2,000 miles away to help the team win.
Also, according to court documents, the club is paying the annual salaries of the couple's sons, Drew and Travis. The combined salaries of the two total $600,000, while neither is said to have any responsibility with the Dodgers. At the time the documents were submitted, Drew was attending business school at Stanford and Travis worked at Goldman Sachs in New York.
Consequently, it is alleged by Jamie's lawyers that the Los Angeles Dodgers have paid nearly $4 million over the past 18 months to the John McCourt Company, an entity which does virtually nothing for the team. Jamie's attorneys are describing this entity as a "slush fund," implying it is nothing more than a piggy bank of cash to be used at Frank's leisure.
Additional documents also state that both Frank and Jamie jointly pocketed income totaling $108 million from 2004 through 2009. On that sum, they paid zero federal and state income tax. Because other companies or assets controlled by the McCourts were losing money, loopholes and careful maneuvering allowed the pocketed sum to become tax-free.
In another unorthodox scheme to generate revenue, it was revealed in past weeks that the Los Angeles Dodgers organization has been charging itself rent for Dodger Stadium and the surrounding properties. Although many teams in MLB pay rent for their stadiums, the annual sum of $14 million being paid by the Dodgers has been described as "ludicrous" by financial experts affiliated with the League.
In July, it was disclosed that the Dodgers' charity, the Dodgers Dream Foundation, had paid Howard Sunkin in excess of $400,000 in 2007, which was more than a quarter of the charity's budget. Sunkin, one of the club's highest ranking executives, was also compensated by the Dodgers for other work outside the charity as well. Authorities on charities, especially involved in Major League Baseball, have described the sum of money as preposterous.
As there's more than enough evidence for Bud Selig to intercede and force Frank McCourt out as owner, he's more than likely to weigh the initial ruling from the courts before he takes any type of action.
Most fans in Dodgertown are hoping for the fastest possible resolution, and Bud Selig could certainly make that happen.
The divorce proceedings begin on Monday, August 30.
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