Frank McCourt Divorce Trial: As Jamie's Testimony Resumes, How Will Frank Reconcile With Dodger Fans?
So far, there's no sign of a settlement -- though the trial has already taken a brutal toll on what remained of the McCourts' public standing. First, there was Bud Selig's hand-wringing about lasting damage to the team. Then, Peter O'Malley said the damage was so severe that the McCourts' only option is to sell.
It's not in Frank's makeup to bow to that kind of pressure. But each day the trial goes on, it gets a bit harder for him to reconcile with fans. That's because he has to dig further and further into arguments that may help him in court, but don't help at all in the court of public opinion.
After the jump, a list of four such arguments, along with why they help in court and why they hurt with the fans.
1. I took a huge risk in buying the Dodgers.
This is the original sin of the McCourt ownership, from which all others follow. When he bought the team, Frank minimized the risks in an effort to reassure fans. He said he had put over $200 million of his own money into the deal. But now his own lawyer, Steve Susman, says that Frank put "not one penny" into the transaction, which he called "one of the most highly leveraged acquisitions in the history of Major League Baseball."
Why it helps in court: The riskier the deal appears, the more plausible it is that Jamie would sign away her rights to the team out of fear of going bust.
Why it hurts with the fans: It suggests that Frank was willing to gamble with a treasured cultural institution, and easily could have bankrupted the team.
2. At the time of purchase, I inflated my net worth.
In his 2003 application to bid on the Dodgers, Frank listed his net worth as $326 million. On a 2004 loan application to help finance the purchase, he gave a net worth of $381 million. But on the witness stand, Frank said those figures were based on a theoretical future value of his land. He now says his actual net worth at the time was more like $75 million to $125 million.
Why it helps in court: The lower Frank's net worth, the more plausible it is that Jamie would give up her rights to his assets.
Why it hurts with the fans: It sure looks like Frank lied to Major League Baseball about his wealth because he couldn't really afford the team.
3. Jamie and I looted the Dodgers.
Frank and Jamie each had a hand in advancing this argument during the spousal support phase of the case. For her part, Jamie claimed the Dodgers gave her $1 million per month in salary and perks. Frank alleged that Jamie was bleeding the Dodgers dry with her outrageous lifestyle. Jamie shot back that he lived just as lavishly.
Why it helped Jamie in court: The more she claimed in Dodger salaries and perks, the more she was entitled to in spousal support.
Why it helped Frank in court: The more Jamie's demands appeared to exceed what the Dodgers could afford, the less he would have to pay in spousal support.
Why it hurt both of them with the fans: With ticket prices up 70% since 2004, fans don't want to hear that the owners wasted their money on houses and haircuts instead of investing in ballplayers.
4. Now I'm broke.
In any divorce proceeding, the parties have an incentive to hide assets and plead poverty. Frank is not actually broke, but he has told the court that he is highly illiquid. He said he has had to borrow money from his brother to pay spousal support.
Why it helps in court: The poorer Frank appears, the less he may be ordered to pay in permanent spousal support and for Jamie's attorneys' fees. If it comes to this, it could also mean he will forfeit less upon division of their assets.
Why it hurts with the fans: Fans want an owner who can afford to field a winning team, and they always suspected that Frank was not that guy. Now he's confirmed it.
Full McCourt coverage:
Week 1 Wrap-Up:
The Screaming Meanie
Even more McCourt:
L.A. Weekly cover story, Dodger Dog, from August