By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
But behind the scenes, Dodger executives had already been playing marriage counselor for years.
From e-mails and documents made public in the divorce proceedings, the central disagreement in the marriage apparently was between Jamie's desire for security and McCourt's appetite for risk. In that respect, it was not so different from McCourt's dispute with Craig and Heath.
Without leverage, the McCourts never would have owned the Dodgers. With it, they used a 3,000-space parking lot to buy a team, a stadium, a spring-training facility, a Dominican baseball academy and, don't forget, a 16,000-space parking lot surrounding the stadium.
Flying in the face of an MLB rule that limits owner debt to 40 percent, almost the entire purchase was financed with loans from News Corp. and Bank of America.
It was a big gamble, and it carried risks.
At this point in her life, Jamie was becoming risk-averse.
In April 2008, Jeff Ingram, a Boston real estate banker who had worked for the McCourts since 1999, wrote an e-mail to both McCourts titled "Getting on the Same Page."
"The most important thing that has to be accomplished is for the two of you to get on the same page on both the family finances and aspirations and the strategic direction of the companies," Ingram wrote, sounding more like a therapist than a banker. "If there are common goals, I believe the journey will be more fulfilling and enjoyable for you and for everybody else."
For her own sense of comfort, Jamie wanted to have $250 million in the bank. Given that the McCourts owned mostly large, illiquid and leveraged assets, the only way to achieve Jamie's goal, Ingram wrote, would be to sell a minority stake in the Dodgers.
That was directly counter to McCourt's ambitions, which involved not only holding on to full ownership of the team but also building a football stadium and ultimately turning his company into a global sports enterprise.
"If you aren't on the same page," Ingram wrote, "I sincerely hope you can have the conversation in the spirit of 'Look what we accomplished' and 'How do we want to spend our time going forward.' Please appreciate the moment and work together to determine what is best for you and your family. ... From a personal perspective, I really hope you can find a common ground."
It didn't happen. In November 2008, McCourt sent an e-mail to Ingram in which he contemplated raising an astounding $600 million in fresh equity to expand the business into a global sports enterprise. He seemed particularly excited because his two oldest sons, Drew and Travis, were onboard and eager to be seriously involved in the family business. This would prepare them for someday taking ownership of the team.
Of the $600 million, $47 million would go to the family, which McCourt thought would give Jamie more "peace of mind."
In reality, McCourt's ambitions could not have been in greater conflict with Jamie's desire for security. Ingram understood this better than anybody. In a one-line e-mail to McCourt, he wrote, "I assume you realize all eyes will be on Mama Bear to see how she embraces new direction."
In the midst of this conflict, the McCourts sat down for an estate-planning session. Jamie says it was then that she first learned what would happen to their assets in the event of a divorce.
Jamie and McCourt had signed a marital-property agreement upon moving to California in 2004. The agreement was intended to protect the couple's houses from creditors. Under California's community-property laws, the houses could be at risk if the Dodgers went bankrupt.
The agreement appears to be in keeping with Jamie's aversion to risk, and there is a strong legal argument that she should be made to live by it. The houses — a stable, secure investment — were put in her name. The team was put in McCourt's name.
But as the estate planner explained, if they divorced, McCourt would keep the team and Jamie would get the houses. Forbes estimated the team was worth $700 million, almost double the $371 million purchase price, and seven times the value of the houses.
This, Jamie and McCourt agreed, was not what they intended. In the summer of 2008, the couple decided to draft a new agreement that would make the team community property. But McCourt quickly had second thoughts. If he signed it, he would have some peace in the marriage. But their fundamental conflicts would remain, and if they later divorced, they would probably have to sell the team.
For nearly a year, Jamie pursued him and pleaded with him to sign it. When at last he refused, the marriage was effectively over.
When Jamie filed for divorce, shortly after being fired by her husband in October 2009, it was only a matter of time before all the McCourt family secrets came tumbling out.
The details seem to invite comparisons to the court of Versailles, and indeed McCourt's lawyer did compare Jamie to Marie Antoinette at a spousal-support hearing in March. (That would make him Louis XVI, so it would be bad news for both of them.)
In a deposition, McCourt acknowledged that over time, their spending became excessive.
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