Friday, September 24, 2010

Day ten preview--mediation.

This morning, the sides will meet with Judge Peter Lichtman, who will mediate settlement discussions in the hope of ending this litigations. The lawyers' expectations vary wildly, even on the same side. I've heard we'll definitely be back Monday, and I've heard there's a small, but reasonable, chance this could be over shortly.

The process is expected to go as follows: each side prepared a brief settlement proposal to submit to Judge Lichtman. He will likely meet with representatives from each side individually. It was unknown whether Frank and Jamie McCourt would be present personally, but--as legal ethics are an important topic in this mess--we must note that the parties themselves have the ultimate say on their participation and any agreement.

Often, as the mediation progresses, the judge may encourage parties, or their representatives, to meet. This usually occurs after the judge has identified an issue--maybe even a minor one--on which the parties share common ground. Mediation is psychological; encouraging the parties to come together on inconsequential issues can foster meaningful discussions on the big-picture items.

Stephen Susman mentioned yesterday that this mediation will go best if Judge Lichtman has spoken with Judge Gordon about the case. Judge Lichtman would then have a strong sense of where each party is strong and weak. That knowledge would make it easier for him to put settlement discussions in context. The fear of losing drives these negotiations, and you can expect Judge Lichtman to ask each side hard questions about what a loss at trial would mean for their client.

For Frank, a loss would be a crippling blow to his decades-long string of luck, fueled by hard work. He survived bitter litigation concerning the Seaport property, so he's been here before. A loss at trial would cost him the Dodgers, of course, making unavailable the best route to redeeming his public image: winning on the diamond.

For Jamie, a loss at trial would be a financial disaster. In a year's time, she will have gone from practically limitless resources to owning little more than tough-to-move real estate. Make no mistake: she'd be quite wealthy. But she'd have to think about how she spends her money, and that's a big change. She, herself, poured a lot of hard work into the couple's businesses over time. Her testimony notwithstanding, I believe Jamie is a very intelligent woman who simply found herself in a cascading run of hard times.

For both Frank and Jamie, a loss represents the end of their shared hopes for their sons to own and run the Dodgers. No one involved in the trial disputes their concern for their children; they have declined to involve the kids whatsoever, even though it's likely the children know things relevant to the case. The McCourts have done several things in recent years leading us to question their decisionmaking, so I think it's important to acknowledge they've at least kept the kids out of this.

The mediation is probably welcome the least in the fans' eyes. Any settlement agreement would keep the Dodgers in the McCourt family, an outcome a very high proportion of fans fear. To me, that speaks to the tragedy of the entire situation; the fan base of the Los Angeles Dodgers is actively rooting for the trial to continue, because it is the path to new ownership. And, should the litigation continue, no definite end is in sight. This part will conclude next week, but we'd be months--if not a year or two--from anything approaching finality.

So we wait and watch. I'll certainly update as events warrant, and I'll also post later today about the disputed timeline concerning the creation, execution, and modification of the MPA.
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  1. As you know, Josh, I disagree with you that the McCourts have kept their children out of it. Frank is openly using his sons as a cat's paw for retaining ownership of the team ("I want my sons to inherit blah blah blah").

  2. IMHO, much as I dislike Jamie, Frank's the one who will have to cross the bridge. Given the intractable viewpoints about the intentions behind the MPA and the mess Silverstein created, I believe the judge will have no choice but to throw the whole thing out.

    So Jamie gets part of the Dodgers. And she also gets a share of Frank's Dodger debt. Which I suspect is the reason for the disparity in their respective positions toward a settlement. Jamie wants her cut of the Dodgers without any of the Dodger debt, but Frank wants her to accept that he is too indebted to give her what she wants.

    But dang, as a true blue fan, I want the team SOLD!!! Puhh-lease!!!

  3. How ironic that just days ago the Boston Seaport property was granted a $3 Billion dollar development.

    I would agree with Josh that Jamie has far more to lose in a decision than Frank. If he wins he retains control of the team and she the homes. If he loses, community property split. But if she loses outright, as stated, it would be an enormous setback to her lifestyle. A lifestyle that would still be the envy of anyone.

    I just feel that both sides must know that a meaningful resolution is the most propitious form of valor. However, it is my contention, still, that even with a settlement, it is highly unlikely that Frank would retain ownership of the team, unless he is able to secure even more loans or an extension of his FOX TV rights, which would end his dream of a Dodger YES network and severely limit his revenue stream once again. He would most likely have to realistically look into building a new stadium. Good luck with that.

  4. Us as fans need to stick it to these Jerks.
    The only way we can do that is by not showing up to the games and supporting our Dodgers by watching them on T.V and listening to Vinny. I have a question, why isn't the MLB stepping in?
    They are just letting this Family drive our team into the ground.

  5. If Jamie's position on the effect of the MPA is to be believed she would have created a "best of both worlds" situation for herself in regards to the Dodgers: either (a) the Dodgers investment fails and HER houses are protected, or (b) the Dodgers investment is profitable and she has HER houses and reaps the benefits of a profitable investment in the Dodgers. Her position of "I would never have given up my rights in thd Dodgers" argument just doesn't wash. She was more than willing to give up those rights if the Dodger investment failed. Why would Frank have accepted all the risk of the Dodgers while giving up all of his rights in the houses? Consider this: if the Dodgers investment was "upside down", and they were divorcing, would Jamie give Frank half the ownership in the houses? Heck no. She would say, "their mine, all mine - look at the MPA."

  6. I have actually participated in a mediation with Judge Lichtman in 2002(He is retired and was formerly very prominent in the LA County Courts.) He is an effective mediator because he builds up the side he is talking to by questioning the "crazy" claims the other side makes, but then pivots quickly, so it might go like this:

    "Frank, Jamie is crazy in thinking that the Dodgers did not need to be set up as community property since everyone knew you had to be the SOLE owner of the team to execute the deal, BUT it does not look good that the MPA was changed after signature."

  7. Earlier this morning, Josh tweeted:

    "DodgerDivorce: Was concerned earlier this week...this is Expos level. We're about to contract this media unit."

    Does anyone have any idea what this means, or what Josh is talking about? Josh? (If you're here?)

  8. I think they ultimately settle for the sake of their kids. They both have too much to lose to leave it up to the judge. Frank will do a deal with Fox to get up front money (I think it would be poetic justice for Fox to insist on deferred money in the deal). That helps him now to pay off Jamie, but it's going to hurt the team in the long run. He'll have long spent his money from the TV deal. And then, when that contract expires, maybe then he can build his Dodger network.


    First, this mediation is going no where without the parties being present. Don't know what's going on but I very much doubt that Lichtman would have the mediation without them being present.

    Second as to whether the mediation is likely to result in an agreement today or in any one day, forget about it. There are too many moving parts here that need to resolved with lots of detail as to each poin.

    Third, don't what y'all are smoking, but a loss on the MPS for Jamie would not necessarily be a financial disaster. I have not seen the MPA, but as far as I have heard or read, it does not contain a waiver of support by Jamie. If she looses on the MPA, there is still the issue of support, and with their long term marriage, her life style and her need for income to support the mortgages on the real estate (about $6 million a year for that item alone), Frank would still be on the hook for many millions a year(something in the range of $10 million would seem very reasonable and probable under the circumstances).

    Y'all seem so obsessed with the MPA and that whole circus that you're ignoring the broader problems.

  10. Frank will probably cut a deal with Jamie, but I'm praying for a forced sale and hoping a true baseball man like Dennis Gilbert (or someone like him) will buy the team.

  11. "For both Frank and Jamie, a loss represents the end of their shared hopes for their sons to own and run the Dodgers."

    Well I guess 2 votes out of 8 million isn't THAT bad. And while we're on the subject

    What about my shared hope to own and run Canada?

  12. Anon at 11:16:

    I have a question, why isn't the MLB stepping in?

    You are aware the Pirates are still in the league, right? And they've been losing since Barry Bonds left the team, right? What was that, 1992?

    MLB could give a rat's ass about the Dodgers.

  13. everyone is talking about the mpa but how come us netizens can't see a copy of it? the disso petition was in the la times at the beginning; i have asked before but never gotten a response.