Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jamie to the Dodgers: keep out.

It's becoming clear that the LA Times' Bill Shaikin is the go-to guy for developing news regarding the court proceedings surrounding the divorce. Shaikin's reporting has been simply indispensable thus far. He writes today:
Jamie McCourt argued in a motion Monday that the Dodgers should not be a party in a divorce hearing, asking the court to throw out papers filed in the team's name that "unnecessarily and gratuitously attack" her.
The motion is expected to be considered Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court as part of a hearing to determine the validity of McCourt's demand for immediate reinstatement as the Dodgers' chief executive.
I can certainly sympathize with Jamie's desire that the court exclude the Dodgers' filings, which suggest she had a relatively pointless job and--oh yeah--is actively engaged in an affair with a subordinate employee. But Jamie's argument here is a little silly. She's bringing the Dodgers into this. If she didn't want the Dodgers to be involved in the process, she shouldn't have asked the court to reinstate her. If she didn't want details regarding her role with the Dodgers to surface, she shouldn't have made a big deal about getting her benefits and perquisites back.

I haven't seen nearly enough to evaluate either side's strategy here, but from the outside it sure looks like there was some significant commingling of Dodgers funds and McCourt funds. Essentially, in a well-run business, it should be easy for an outside auditor to separate business expenses from payments to employees, directors, or shareholders. Given what we've seen from Jamie's filings, that's not the case with the Dodgers. Jamie identifies Dodgers-paid benefits and perquisites as both compensation and lifestyle items she seeks to maintain through the divorce.

This brings us back to the relationship between the Dodgers' spending on the organization and the club's expenses regarding the owners. We might disagree with how much the owners of a baseball team should make or how aggressively a general manager should spend. But I doubt that we very seriously disagree that such spending should be separate. I'd have much less of a problem with identifiable distributions to the owners of even obscene amounts--$25 million annually, fine--than I do with the nebulous, hazy compensation structure we have in front of us. In addition to their discrete draws--Frank's of approximately $5-6 million and Jamie's annual salary of $2 million--we have simply no idea how much the Dodgers have spent indulging the McCourts' lifestyle demands.

At the heart of it all, you have the reality that it's getting awfully expensive to take your family to a Dodger game. We can understand why prices go up as the payroll grows and the stadium gets nicer. And, I really believe, we can understand that the owners are going to be well-compensated and live lifestyles well beyond our reach. But at least we can look out toward left field and evaluate Manny Ramirez's performance against his compensation. It's a shame that we can't look up to the owner's box to do the same.


  1. Hi everyone--

    I've heard there might be problems commenting from Safari on a Mac. If you have issues, please e-mail me at DodgerDivorce@gmail.com.



  2. It's quite possibly rather common in sports to have such blurry lines around assets and spending. On a much smaller scale, it's known that Walter O'Malley lived in a hotel in LA for a number of years instead of taking an apartment or a house. And, the Dodgers paid the bill. The amounts were tiny compared to what the rapacious McCourts are tossing around. But, the principle is the same, and it's one reason people like to own their own business, you can get away with this to a certain extent. It will be interesting to see if perhaps some of this revealing documentation might end up interesting the IRS.

  3. While not all look, but done well. Not a bad idea for the collection and coordination of technical information.