Selfish McCourts Are a Blight on L.A.

In the world of sports, it’s obviously critical to have the best possible players on your team in order to win.

It’s essential to have the right coaches and trainers on board, to help those players do their best, and to put them in a position to triumph.

It’s vital to have the right management team in charge: scouting, hiring, and acquiring the players and coaches that a team needs to be successful.

All those things are important, clearly. But without principled, moneyed ownership to pay all the bills, choose the right lieutenants to call the shots, and provide all the ingredients to make the championship pie — without sticking their fingers into it as it’s cooling — a sports team will be hard-pressed to win championships.

That’s why Frank and Jamie McCourt’s ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers has been a complete and utter disgrace.

This pair of Beantown parking lot magnates flew cross-country to purchase one of baseball’s greatest franchises in 2003. They’ve since given themselves full West Coast makeovers, and their egos have ballooned up to Hollywood standards.

For reference, this is what they used to look like:

old mccourts

The McCourts have used the Dodgers as their own personal cash cow and id vehicle, acquiring washed-up Red Sox players and dealing away top prospects for cash as they go on ridiculous spending sprees and jet around the country in Gulfstream IVs.

Now the McCourts are getting divorced, and feuding like children for all to see.

The resulting fallout could cripple the franchise, because neither is rich enough to own the team in the aftermath of a costly split, let alone invest the money the Dodgers need to get stronger.

Of course, they don’t care a whit about that, because Frank and Jamie McCourt are narcissistic boobs.

ROTI issued our first takedown of the McCourts last offseason, when we accused them of pinching pennies and not doing what it took to bring back stars Manny Ramirez and Rafael Furcal.

Those jerks shut us up by getting both players under contract. The Dodgers got out to a great start, won the NL West (not without a fight, though), and made it to the playoffs.

However, before the team was even eliminated, Frank McCourt fired Jamie from her position as CEO of the Dodgers, accusing her of insubordination and an inappropriate relationship with an employee!

Jamie retorted, “You can’t fire me – I OWN this team!”

This immediately kick started a divorce court battle that centered around the question “Who owns the Dodgers?”

Major League Baseball insists that one controlling owner be determined for each franchise, and in this regard, Frank McCourt is the owner of the Dodgers. He’s also got Jamie’s signature on a document to that effect.

However, it seems possible that the team is part of the couple’s community property, and thus subject to 50/50 division in California divorce court.

Further complicating matters is that the team was purchased in a highly leveraged deal. The McCourts were never that wealthy to begin with (by sports team ownership standards).

A new blog called Dodger Divorce, written by Joshua Fisher, has done a brilliant job of breaking down the couple’s purchase of the team. It concludes a wrapup of the evidence with these damning statements:

So, if you’re counting at home, the above adds up to $421 million in financing…for a $371 million purchase. That, friends, is a little scary….

We know that the McCourts aren’t worth anything close to the $1.2 billion Jamie suggests. At most, the couple seems to have something approaching $750 million in total net worth ($400 million in “other assets plus ~$350 million in equity in the Dodgers). However, it is my guess, based on the loan balances due on the residences and their history of operating heavily-leveraged businesses, that the couple’s net worth is under $600 million.

If the team is determined to be an asset of the marriage, either partner would have to become heavily leveraged to take the other out. If no agreement can be reached and the court orders the Dodgers to be sold to a third party, expect a bit of a discount on the purchase price, leaving both McCourts with even less…

What I really want to emphasize is that the McCourts aren’t worth as much as you think, and breaking up this marriage is going to cost them both dearly.

Not only that, but it’s going to cost the Dodgers dearly.

If you want evidence, just take a day trip south, where the San Diego Padres have suffered immensely after their owner, John Moores, divorced his wife. Moores was utterly strapped for cash and had to sell the team; in the meantime, the franchise floundered.

What makes this so much worse than the Moores/Padres situation is that the McCourts’ divorce is not merely harming the team’s bottom line — it’s playing out in the papers on a daily basis, overshadowing the club and humiliating Dodger fans.

Where to begin…let’s start with Jamie’s divorce filing…

ShysterBall did an absolutely glorious job of summarizing Jamie’s opening salvo.

There’s no way I could recap it all here, so check it out when you get a chance. For true legal junkies, there’s also this link to the filing itself.

She wants $320,967 in monthly spousal support if she gets her job back with the Dodgers. If she does not get her job back with the Dodgers, she wants $487,634 a month.

Jamie led a push to have the environs of Dodger Stadium given its own zip code and the name “Dodgertown, California.” That’s so lame I’d expect to see that as an accusation in Frank’s filings, not a supporting point in Jamie’s. Jamie made $2 million a year when she worked for the Dodgers. You can look at this one of two ways: as an awful damn lot of money to pay a person for coming up with stupid stuff like “Dodgertown, California” or as a total steal considering she made 1/6 the money Jason Schmidt did and actually, you know, did stuff.

Description of lifestyle: more on the private air travel (private jets at $12K an hour) fine hotels (always over $1000 a night) and nice dinners out ($400+ a pop). Good for them. What kills me though is that the next time there’s a labor impasse, Joe Fan is going to side with the owners and complain that the players are the greedy ones who make too much money to play a kid’s game.

Jamie wants her job back as Dodger CEO, but even if she can’t get that, she wants all the “perquisites, emoluments and benefits” that come with the job and with co-ownership of the Dodgers. That’s perks and fringe benefits to peasants like you and me. The list of perks is long and includes all of the sorts of things you might expect the owners of a billion dollar company to have: Private jet travel, five star hotels wherever she goes, use of the “Dodger credit card” and the like.

The only one that has me scratching my head is “private security when traveling in dangerous locations.” By that I can only assume she means road trips to Queens when the team plays the Mets.

Actually, what it means is that she wants Frank to foot the bill for the companionship of her personal “bodyguard,” Jeff Fuller. Also known as her road beef.

fuller

Here’s an AP report on Frank’s divorce filing:

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt on Wednesday filed papers opposing his wife’s demand to be reinstated as the team’s chief executive, citing insubordination and an affair she allegedly had with her bodyguard.

The documents were submitted one day after Jamie McCourt filed divorce papers seeking to regain her $2 million-a-year job.

In a filing submitted by the Dodgers that opposes her return to the team, Dodgers attorneys allege that Jamie McCourt took a trip with her bodyguard, Jeff Fuller, in early July to Israel on team business, but then headed to France for 2 1/2 weeks and billed the Dodgers for the trip. Jamie McCourt is also accused of not giving her husband any information about her assignments as chief executive and not providing the team with her schedule of public appearances.

In a declaration filed by Frank McCourt, he references Fuller as well, saying before his wife went on the trip she asked him for three things — one of which was to have Fuller be her driver.

Many harsh words have been exchanged in a public back-and-forth waged daily in the Los Angeles papers between the McCourts’ divorce lawyers.

The guys they brought on board to do battle are extremely experienced LA attorneys with storerooms full of high-profile celeb divorce paperwork. Suffice it to say, their billing rates are ample, and every cent comes out of the Dodgers’ bottom line.

Some of the harshest rhetoric surrounds Jamie McCourt’s role as President/CEO of the Dodgers, and whether her efforts helped or hindered the team in the first place.  (BREAKING: As this item went to press, the court denied Jamie’s attempts to be reinstated as CEO.)

Bill Shaikin of the LA Times has been a clutch journalist on the case, and here’s his wrapup of Jamie’s side of the story:

Jamie McCourt claims she was actively involved in the ownership and management of the team from day one, detailing her involvement in executive meetings, hiring and planning decisions, and marketing and community relations initiatives.

“I was the face of the Dodgers,” she claims.

Frank’s attorneys beg to differ:

The two sides also revived their debate on how integral Jamie McCourt has been to the success of the Dodgers’ operations, with attorneys for Frank McCourt belittling her assertion that she was “the face of the Dodgers.”

“There is no ‘face of the Dodgers,’ ” his attorneys wrote, “and, even if there were, dozens of Dodgers figures would rank ahead of Jamie McCourt. The conflict between Jamie McCourt’s focus on her self-image and the values of the Dodgers’ organization is irreconcilable.”

Dodgers President Dennis Mannion has opposed her reinstatement, alleging that Jamie McCourt seldom showed up for work on time, missed meetings and put her interests ahead of those of the team.

And furthermore…

Mannion denied Jamie McCourt’s claims that he had instructed team employees not to work with her and excluded her from management discussions and decisions. He said he would have welcomed her involvement had she shown up for work more often.

Mannion further alleged that Jamie McCourt focused on initiatives “designed to cultivate and promote her image as the highest ranking woman in Major League Baseball,” even when those activities “were not financially successful ventures and did not fit the strategic needs of the organization.”

The filing in particular cited DodgersWIN, described in her biography as a program that “brings women closer to the game, brings the game closer to women’s lifestyles, and helps inspire women to use their voices.”

That sounds like one of the stupidest ideas in the history of the game, second only to race-based discrimination. The game is the game, we don’t need to spend money making it “closer to women’s lifestyles.” Seems to me that plenty of women enjoy the game of baseball already without Jamie’s useless efforts. Are you kidding me with this??

Maybe if Jamie hadn’t wasted so much money on first-class accommodations and ludicrous programs like DodgersWIN, the team wouldn’t have had to essentially sell blue chip prospect Carlos Santana to the Indians — the SMALL MARKET CLEVELAND INDIANS — in order to save money in the acquisition of role player Casey Blake.

The sad fact is, while the Dodgers have won a fair amount of games in the McCourts’ tenure, those victories have been owed largely to ex-GM Dan Evans, who ran the team back when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was the owner.

Virtually every star Dodger was drafted during the Evans regime, or acquired with prospects drafted by Evans. That includes Matt Kemp, Jon Broxton, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, and Chad Billingsley. Manny Ramirez was acquired by trading Evans’ pick Andy LaRoche.

There’s one notable exception — star lefty Clayton Kershaw was chosen by the McCourts’ GM, Ned Colletti — but with the 7th pick in the draft you’d damn well better get yourself a guy with huge upside.

Under the McCourts’ penurious regime, the Dodgers have gutted their once-robust commitment to international scouting.

The result of dealing prospects for cash and skimping on bonuses is that the Dodgers’ once-stellar minor league organization (this is a team that once churned out five straight NL Rookies of the Year) is now one of the worst in baseball.

[T]he Dodgers have done relatively little to replenish the organization. Baseball America last spring ranked the Dodgers’ farm system 23rd among the 30 teams.

Gordon and pitcher Chris Withrow emerged as elite prospects this season, but the minor league depth is limited by the Dodgers’ limited investment in it.

The Dodgers have paid $8.5 million in signing bonuses for draft picks over the last two years — the lowest figure among all major league teams, according to Baseball America.

The Dodgers, so proud of their heritage in Asia and Latin America, today are a non-factor in bidding for top amateur players abroad. In 2008, according to Baseball America, major league clubs combined to sign 115 such players for bonuses of more than $100,000. The Dodgers did not sign one.

“They’re definitely not the pioneering team they were,” Baseball America editor John Manuel said. “They’ve squandered that advantage.”

Dodger Divorce points out that improvements to Dodger Stadium will surely be sidelined by the accelerating court proceedings.

Other observers, including Shaikin and LA columnist Bill Plaschke, accuse the McCourts of blowing a chance to acquire ace Cliff Lee — last seen mowing down Yankees in the World Series:

It has been written here countless times since the end of July that the Dodgers would have been a serious World Series contender if they had been able to trade for an available ace starter like Cliff Lee.

The Phillies acquired Lee instead, and it is the Phillies who are in the World Series this week, using Lee to steal a Game 1 victory from the New York Yankees.

The Dodgers finished second in the Lee sweepstakes this summer because the Cleveland Indians judged the Phillies’ prospects to be better. It turns out that the Dodgers didn’t improve their offer because the McCourts would rather invest in the cheaper lower-level minor leaguers than pay the remainder of Lee’s $6-million contract this year, plus his $9-million option next year.

Go away, McCourts. Now.

Sell the team and go live in one of your many mansions, or even better, pitch a tent in a parking lot.

(Oh, I forgot. News Corp foreclosed on those.)

Dodgers fans are being robbed blind by these two carpetbagging hedonists, and it’s only going to get worse from here unless they find a way to unload the team and do it soon.

Los Angeles deserves far better ownership than these two chumps.

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