McCourt Divorce Settlement Leaves Dodger Future Uncertain
After a late night of negotiations, Frank and Jamie McCourt reached a settlement this morning in their bitter divorce feud.
The settlement, however, leaves a lot unsettled. Most of all, it does not even resolve the question of who owns the Dodgers. That will have to be determined at a one-day trial in August.
Have you ever heard of a settlement in which the parties agree to keep fighting? Well, that's Frank and Jamie for you.
Moreover, the settlement does not resolve the "second front" in the Dodger divorce litigation -- the intensifying battle with Major League Baseball. The deal is contingent on MLB's approval of a Fox television contract, which seems uncertain at best. If MLB withholds its approval, the deal is off.
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Here's what the settlement achieves. It sets up an all-or-nothing one-day trial on Aug. 4, in which Jamie will argue that the Dodgers should be split 50/50. Frank will argue the team is his alone.
If Jamie wins, the Dodgers will be sold. (So if you're pro-sale, keep rooting for Jamie.) If Jamie loses, Frank gets the team. Jamie gets the houses, plus $100 million, which is not a bad way to lose.
The settlement also contains some terms that MLB will be likely to look askance at. It contemplates a $385 million loan from Fox, of which only about $200 million will go into the Dodgers. Another $50 million will be set aside to pay off Jamie. The rest will be used to pay down debt* and pay off attorneys' fees. One other stipulation: "Each party will receive an additional $5 million to use as she and he desires." Great!
Frank has previously said that he would put all the up-front money from the Fox transaction into the Dodgers -- and that it would not be used to pay off Jamie -- but that was apparently not intended to be a factual statement.
Now it's up to Major League Baseball to decide whether to approve the Fox deal. Outside court, Frank said he fully expects the deal to go through. If it doesn't, expect him to sue the league.
"This is a huge milestone," Frank said. "There's a very clear pathway to resolution on Aug. 4th.... It's dragged on far too long. I'm sorry. I feel horrible about it."
On that much, at least, Frank and Jamie seem to agree.
"The most important thing is to have resolution," Jamie said. "I love the Dodgers. I love the community. I love the fans."
Update, Monday: Indeed -- surprise, surprise -- MLB has a problem with the "diversion of Dodger assets for the personal use of Mr. McCourt." Deal is nixed. Settlement is void.
*Corrected. The original version referred to "personal debt," but the debt in question -- $80 million -- is owed by the Dodgers.
Here's the settlement.