Thursday, August 5, 2010

A battle with several fronts.

If you had any doubt left about Frank McCourt, businessman, LA Weekly's Gene Maddaus has a story you might enjoy. From a tale full of alleged back-stabbings, several burned bridges, and an unhealthy lack of regard for the present, there emerges an interesting glimpse into the worsening troubles in the McCourt marriage:
[T]he central disagreement in the marriage apparently was between Jamie's desire for security and McCourt's appetite for risk.


"If you aren't on the same page," [Boston real estate Banker Jeff Ingram] wrote, "I sincerely hope you can have the conversation in the spirit of 'Look what we accomplished' and 'How do we want to spend our time going forward.' Please appreciate the moment and work together to determine what is best for you and your family. ... From a personal perspective, I really hope you can find a common ground."

It didn't happen. In November 2008, McCourt sent an e-mail to Ingram in which he contemplated raising an astounding $600 million in fresh equity to expand the business into a global sports enterprise. He seemed particularly excited because his two oldest sons, Drew and Travis, were onboard and eager to be seriously involved in the family business. This would prepare them for someday taking ownership of the team.

Of the $600 million, $47 million would go to the family, which McCourt thought would give Jamie more "peace of mind."

In reality, McCourt's ambitions could not have been in greater conflict with Jamie's desire for security. Ingram understood this better than anybody. In a one-line e-mail to McCourt, he wrote, "I assume you realize all eyes will be on Mama Bear to see how she embraces new direction."

In the midst of this conflict, the McCourts sat down for an estate-planning session.

There are two ways to characterize what happened next. For Jamie's part, she says didn't understand the full effect of the MPA until well after she signed it. She was shocked and scared to learn the assets would be split so unevenly in the event of divorce, and immediately began working with Frank to make the document comport with their true intentions.

This line of thinking also fits in with the portrayal of Frank as an opportunist above all else. In this sense, think of Frank McCourt as Barry Sanders, making his living by dancing behind the line, risking a loss, but possessing an uncanny knack for spotting the smallest opening and making a big gain. The problem, of course, is that when Frank McCourt wins, it's not at the expense of other teams or their fans...people get hurt.

That's one way of looking at it, anyway. I do think it's important to note that, as has become common, Frank declined to comment for this story. Presumably, he also declined to direct Maddaus to sources which might paint Frank in a more favorable light.

Though it has been to his detriment, Frank's been the much quieter of the two McCourts throughout the saga. His camp seems content to let Jamie and her support team win the headlines, which it has certainly done. It's sort of ironic. In court filings related to the divorce, Jamie says:
I know that Frank is very litigious and that he employs a 'scorched earth' litigation philosophy.
I don't think Jamie's PR campaign in the divorce can be described any other way.

Which, all things considered, is fine. All's fair in love and war, they say, and we've had one turn into the other here. I believe Frank is a ruthless, cunning businessman. I believe he's made a fortune at the direct expense of personal relationships and others' well-being. I believe he might be wired to not care about these things, capable desiring only to beat the guy across the table. And I certainly believe Jamie wants us to believe these things.


  1. As we've speculated here and elsewhere, there is simply no upside for Frank McCourt to speak to the press or appear much in the public since he has the upper hard with the only person whose opinions matter, Commissioner Gordon (don't think I'll ever tire of saying that.) While on the other hand, the only thing that Jamie McCourt has is to win a PR battle and hope that she tarnishes Frank McCourt's image enough that he'll settle. As the LA Weekly story indicates, that seems highly unlikely.

  2. Greg--

    Unfortunately, delightful as it is, Commissioner Gordon is no longer. He is now Judge Gordon, which is much more proper and much less interesting.

  3. What!?!?! My world is crumbling around me!!

    But seriously, what exactly is the difference between a commissioner and judge? Has Gordon gotten a promotion?

  4. First, Commercial Real Estate is a cut throat business. It is no surprise that Frank McCourt has made enemies acquiring properties. Second his methods of putting little down for the property, and being in court half the time isn't new or shocking either, it is part of commercial real estate and property development, and shows the casino like qualities of the business. There is always legal squabbling in property ownership, especially those with huge value like the South Boston properties..

    There has been a common theme of Frank McCourt's business life of not having the cash to either buy the property, not working well with partners, or being very difficult to work with. There is a reason why the Pritzker family didn't work with Frank or buy him out for the Fan Pier Project. Some of the stuff in the article shows how Frank operated in Boston. Hell, he didn't even build the parking lots on the site!

    there article from 2004 just repeats some of the themes about Frank McCourt...

    I don't think there is no need for "balance" for the article. The biggest balance that the article could had shown is that Frank and the Dodgers didn't have $400 million or more in debt, or that he changed his ways coming to LA. He sort of pulling the same tactics of talking a big game but he cannot back up his words. His "Next 50" project is a perfect example..

    The article is a bit nice to Jamie, who's lackeys probably help them with some of the sources, but Jamie's biggest sin is her profligate spending. However, much of the article is pretty much a rehash of Frank's antics. He rarely has his own money.

    Your Barry Sanders's analogy is weak. Frank is doing what many in commercial real estate do to hold on to a property. Knowing the nuances of Real Estate law can help someone, when they need to exploit it. His first partners weren't dumb, they were just going by the premises of down payments and working up front. Frank comes across as not very trusting of anyone. He also seems to be in some sort of delusions that he can get more money by getting passive investors..

    What the article has shown that Frank isn't a ruthless cunning businessman, he is a ruthless cunning litigator. He hasn't been good as a businessman. Ask Mayor Merino of Boston about Frank McCourt for "balance".

  5. well, as you yourself said, a win by any means necessary; the method by which McCourt chooses to conduct his business is through litigation. He leveraged an option into a plot of land into a gift from MA into the Dodgers, by my book, he's done quite well for himself. We may not like the way he does his business but there's no denying that he's been successful at it.

  6. In response to Greg:

    I didn't write, "a win by any means necessary". I wrote that the commercial real estate business is a tricky business. a developer tends to leverage the property, and prays they get back their initial investment. It can be very lucrative, and it can also be a rathole.

    McCourt didn't even put up the parking lots on his Seaport Square land. What he has done is go to court to get the best deal for himself as possible.

    I don't know if he has been successful as much as he has endured, when others would had settled.

    I don't think a very risky business plan of a major sport team is not the greatest way to make money. It is a great way to get loans, and live off those loans, but if McCourt was serious about a long lasting legacy for him as an owner, he would had got partners, have a plan already for the banks when the broadcasting rights go back to the Dodgers in 2013, and keep his debt/value ratio low. Instead, McCourt has had to hock pretty much all the Dodgers as collateral to keep it afloat. I don't see that as successful.

    He is relying on a judge to a uphold a MPA, to see if he can hold on to the Dodgers or not. If he was smart, he would make a deal with Jamie from the get go, with some sort of back dated deal that gives her some of the broadcasting revenue and annual payouts.

    The Dodgers aren't worth the Forbes valuation, because the valuation has a very vague value for market. The Dodgers are probably worth $600 to $700 million with broadcasting rights, but whatever group buys the Dodgers has to raise capital, or have some cash, instead of doing what McCourt did with using debt, which he is still paying off to buy the team, let alone debt to run the club.

    It is risky, not successful, there is a difference.

  7. Tears of sorrowfor the Dodger declineAugust 11, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    It is sad to have this family as owners of the Dodgers. There was nothing like the O`Malley family. Peter O`malley saw the hand writing on the wall and got out of what was turning into corporate wealth was needed to own a franchise.Fox traded Piazza behind the general managers back, sold the team to McCourt the carpetbagger lowlife from Boston but they kept the broadcasting rights.If the McCourts retain ownership off the Dodgers they will become a lower tier team as McCourt sucks every penny out of it.