Dodgers settlement: a one-day trial over ownership

Dodgers settlement hinges on Major League Baseball approving a 17-year TV deal. The Dodgers settlement involves who owns the team in divorce proceedings.

By , Associated Press

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    Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt speaks to media outside court June 17, 2011 in Los Angeles. Frank and Jamie McCourt agreed Friday to have a one-day trial to determine if title to the Dodgers is in Frank McCourt's name or if the team should be considered community property in their divorce. The Dodgers settlement hinges on the league's approval of a TV contract.
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LOS ANGELES – Jamie and Frank McCourt agreed Friday to have a one-day trial to determine if title to the Los Angeles Dodgers is in Frank McCourt's name or if the team should be considered community property in their divorce and then sold, the former couple and their attorneys announced.

The agreement anticipates Major League Baseball's approval of a 17-year TV contract between the Dodgers and Fox, Frank McCourt said outside court. That deal has been reported to be worth $3 billion and Frank McCourt would receive $385 million up front.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined comment. Dennis Wasser, an attorney for Jamie McCourt, hopes the TV deal will be finalized early next week.

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Frank McCourt expressed extreme confidence in the outcome of the trial set for Aug. 4 and he said that he and his former wife had already agreed on what would happen in either outcome.

He said all other issues in the divorce were settled.

The McCourts' lawyers had spent several sessions in front of Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon to reach an agreement and they worked throughout the night before striking a deal shortly before Friday's hearing began.

In December, Gordon deemed invalid a postnuptial marital agreement which gave Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers. That cleared the way for Jamie McCourt to seek half the team under California's community property law.

Jamie McCourt had asked Gordon to order the sale of the team.

In April, Major League Baseball took the extraordinary step of assuming control of the troubled franchise. Former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer was appointed to monitor the team on behalf of baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig said he took the action because he was concerned about the team's finances and how the Dodgers are being run.

Despite Frank McCourt's earlier pledge that none of the upfront money would be used toward his divorce, the settlement terms show otherwise. About $50 million will be placed in an account subject to Gordon's orders, while another $10 million would be used for attorneys' fees, the agreement said. About $80 million will go toward paying off debt and the majority of the remaining funds would be used for the Dodgers.

If Jamie McCourt prevails at the one-day trial, the team, the stadium and the surrounding property — worth hundreds of millions of dollars — would be split between the former couple and "be sold by the parties in an orderly manner under the court's supervision." If the Dodger assets are deemed to be Frank McCourt's, he would give his ex-wife $100 million.

The former couple's lavish lifestyle was exposed in court documents where it was revealed that they took out more than $100 million in loans from Dodgers-related businesses. Their spending habits were likened to using the money from the team as though it was their personal ATM or credit card.

Another judge in November declared an impasse after the McCourts and their attorneys could not reach an agreement.

Neither of the McCourts has acknowledged one another throughout the divorce proceedings. At one point on Thursday, the former couple sat a few feet away from each other, without their attorneys, in Gordon's courtroom. Jamie McCourt busied herself on a tablet, while her ex-husband sat quietly.

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