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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 7, 2010

MLB: Wife of Dodgers owner awarded $225,000 a month


By GREG RISLING
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES A Los Angeles court commissioner on Friday ordered Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to pay his estranged wife $225,000 a month in temporary spousal support in a bitter divorce case where she had asked for nearly $1 million a month.

Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon said in a 55-page ruling that Jamie McCourt would receive $225,000 a month in spousal support and Frank McCourt will pay $412,159 a month for the couple's six homes and a condominium.

In court arguments in March, Jamie McCourt had been seeking $988,845 a month; her husband had offered her $150,000. Gordon said in his ruling that "neither of the parties' positions is supported by the evidence."

Jamie McCourt's attorney, Dennis Wasser, called the ruling "well-reasoned" and "fair" and said his client is satisfied.

Marc Seltzer, an attorney for Frank McCourt, said his camp accepts the judge's decision and looks forward to a trial set for August where both sides will argue about the larger issue of whether the Dodgers are community property.

"The judge has now cleared the way for trial on the most important issue in this divorce, the validity of the marital property agreement," Seltzer said. The documents "make clear that Frank is the sole owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers."

Jamie McCourt maintains she is the team's co-owner, while Frank McCourt says the agreement between the two gives him sole possession of the team.

Attorneys for Jamie McCourt argued their client was entitled to the lavish lifestyle she had during her marriage that included stays at five-star resorts and trips around the world in private jets. They said she has to spend about $568,000 every month on mortgages and related expenses for the seven residences more than half of what she asked from her husband.

Jamie McCourt estimated she had about $4 million in savings and roughly $450,000 in cash that will quickly run out with the mortgage payments, according to court documents.

Frank McCourt also said he was strapped for cash. His attorney said his client can't tap credit lines to maintain Jamie McCourt's spending habits despite Frank McCourt's $5 million annual salary, most of which will now have to cover the mortgages of their residences.

Most of the couple's assets are tied up in real estate, including Dodger Stadium and the land around it. Jamie McCourt has said in court documents that the couple's worth is more than $1.2 billion.

Both sides have disputed how much the Dodgers are actually worth. Frank McCourt said the value of the team is $163 million due to the downturn in the economy, an argument Gordon didn't buy. Jamie McCourt estimates the team is worth more than $830 million.

Gordon said the huge estimate disparity didn't help him in deciding how much spousal support should be doled out to Jamie McCourt. Rather, the money generated from the Dodgers provided "sufficient income" during the couple's marriage to maintain their lifestyle.

"However, the evidence does make it clear that the parties enjoyed their described lifestyle and made significant salary and income distributions to themselves, their adult children and other employees without apparent adverse impact to the Dodgers as a business during the course of their marriage," Gordon wrote.

Jamie McCourt also sought to have her estranged husband pay her attorneys' fees, which could reach up to $9 million. Gordon ordered the sale of a lot in Cabo San Lucas worth about $6.4 million to help pay legal costs.

Jamie McCourt was fired in October as the team's CEO where she drew a $2 million salary. She filed for divorce the same month, citing irreconcilable differences. The McCourts have been married since 1979 and have four grown sons.

She already lost her initial bid to be reinstated as the team's chief executive. But Gordon hasn't decided whether the Dodgers are considered community or separate property. If he rules the team is community property, Jamie McCourt could argue again that she should get her job back.