By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"I think that the lifestyle that we had here was a great lifestyle in the beginning," he testified. "I think it became an out-of-control, unsustainable and very uncomfortable lifestyle."
Dodger executives complained that the McCourts used the team like a credit card. From 2004 to 2009, they collected $108 million from the team for personal use. This was done haphazardly, as the need arose, and without any sort of up-front financial planning.
They paid $150,000 a year for haircuts.
They flew on private jets.
They ate at the finest restaurants and wore the finest clothes.
They stayed in luxury suites.
They had round-the-clock security. (Their head of security, Jeff Fuller, would become Jamie's boyfriend.)
They had seven homes and belonged to seven country clubs.
They bought two homes in Malibu for $46 million; two in Holmby Hills, across from the Playboy Mansion, for $26.5 million; and spent $14 million installing an Olympic-sized pool, so Jamie would have somewhere to swim.
Over the same period, the McCourts paid no income taxes, thanks to a quirk in the tax code affecting owners of sports franchises.
Much of this would be of no more than prurient interest, were Dodger fans not helping to fund the couple's spending through higher ticket prices.
Under the McCourts, the price of the average Dodger ticket has gone from $18 to $30. The parking fee has gone from $8 to $15, high enough that neighbors have complained about fans parking on local streets and walking into the stadium.
That revenue has paid for some stadium renovations, and been used to refinance the McCourts' leveraged purchase of the team. But it has also funded the McCourts' lifestyle, which they now acknowledge was out of control.
It isn't just that they spent too much money. They also seemed to go a bit nuts.
As Bill Shaikin reported in the L.A. Times, they consulted a Russian physicist, Vladimir Shpunt, who claimed he could heal people with the energy in his hands. He was consulted first on a medical issue, then on player moves. He was also paid a six-figure salary to watch Dodger games on TV at his house in suburban Boston and — the pun is tired but irresistible — "Think Blue."
Jamie considered running for president, on a platform of education and "family improvement."
They put Drew, 28, and Travis, 27, on the team payroll, though both had other full-time obligations. Drew was paid $400,000 a year to provide his opinions to Dodger management, a job many fans do for free on the Dodger Talk postgame show. He was given no specific tasks, and was enrolled in the MBA program at Stanford.
So far, there's little evidence that Drew has inherited his father's precocity in business. An avid surfer, he took a $150,000 loan from his mother and invested it in Clout, a Malibu surf shop. According to Clout's Web site, Drew "has been crucial to Clout on keeping it's [sic] old-school roots and renegade kick-ass attitude."
In addition to surfing, it seems, Drew is a big fan of soccer. So McCourt engineered a proposal to buy an English Premier League team. In the business proposal to CITIC, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, Drew was listed as "managing director — Europe," with responsibility for buying the EPL team and for stadium development.
Travis, meanwhile, was paid $200,000, though he worked full-time at Goldman Sachs.
In addition, there appear to be plans to raise ticket prices further still. In the CITIC proposal, the Dodgers said that their tickets are still "relatively inexpensive and there is substantial room for prices to increase without resulting in a decline in attendance."
The proposal contemplated an average ticket price of $53.50 by 2018. The parking fee would be $40, while player salaries would be held nearly flat.
Those figures might have been wildly unrealistic — an attempt, perhaps, to hoodwink Chinese investors — but they should alarm fans nonetheless.
The Chinese, meanwhile, didn't bite.
"They're awfully cautious on non commodities investments," says Bart Fisher, an adviser to CITIC on U.S. investments. "The last thing the Chinese want is to be publicly flagellated when Manny [Ramirez] screws up."
These revelations have been damaging to the McCourts' public image, but it's not clear that they've affected attendance. The Dodgers led the majors in attendance last year. So far this year they are third, and the per-game average has slipped by about 1,600 fans.
That could have as much to do with the economy or the team's inconsistent performance as with the revelations around McCourt and Jamie.
The recession accomplished what Jamie could not; it forced McCourt to trim his sails.
He had once hoped to raise $600 million in new capital. In August 2009, he cut back his goal to $125 million.
By most standards, even his scaled-down plans were ambitious. In an e-mail to the sports finance desk at Bank of America, Ingram explained what the money would be used for. Some would go toward securing rights to build a football stadium and large-scale commercial development in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium.
Some would go to "a campaign to get public investment for infrastructure at the [Dodger Stadium] property, including mass transit" — likely a light-rail line. Ingram noted that would entail "efforts at federal, state and local levels."