The McCourts and the Dodgers
Boston parking magnate Frank McCourt and the Los Angeles Dodgers looked like a happy match when the team bagged its new owner a National League West championship in 2004. Three years later, the acquisition of respected manager Joe Torre and dazzling slugger Manny Ramirez promised a bright new chapter in the Dodger story — until summer romance gave way to Greek tragedy.
On March 27, a group led by Lakers great Magic Johnson agreed to pay $2 billion for the team — a record price for a sports franchise.
News Corp. agrees in principle to sell the Dodgers to Boston real estate developer Frank H. McCourt. The media giant bought the team from the O’Malley family in 1998 for a then-record sum of $311 million. After pouring in an additional $200 million trying to field a successful team and to renovate Dodger Stadium, News Corp. asserts that it never made a profit, losing about $40 million a year.
Major League Baseball unanimously approves News Corp.’s sale of the Dodgers to Frank McCourt for $430 million. It is a leveraged deal financed mostly by debt. McCourt’s attorney Steve Susman says at a divorce trial in 2010 that McCourt put “not a penny” of his own cash into the deal. In McCourt’s first season, the Dodgers win 93 games and the National League West title for the first time since 1995.
Frank and Jamie McCourt buy a $21-million Brentwood mansion. Presaging a splurge of outsized spending, they next buy the house next door to use mostly as staging for an $8-million project to build an indoor pool and sauna. Later, court filings would show that the couple financed their lavish lifestyle by turning the Dodgers organization into their personal ATM. The houses are recorded in Jamie’s name, a fact that would later play out in divorce court when Frank claims sole ownership of the Dodgers, saying the couple’s houses belong to Jamie.
The Dodgers’ season begins with a 12-2 roar, but ends with a 3-1 loss to the San Diego Padres and a 71-91 record — the team’s most losses since 1992.
Frank McCourt buys a trophy house in Malibu — a glass landmark by architect John Lautner with a $27-million price tag — and then doubles up with the $19-million house next door, building a small replica of his much less pricey Cape Cod estate. A warning from his finance manager that borrowing from the Dodgers for the purchase of the second Malibu residence is “disconcerting/discouraging and something I think we should try very hard to avoid,” goes unheeded.
Looking lifeless in their final game, an 11-2 defeat to the last-place San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers finish the regular season in fourth place with an 82-80 record.
The Dodgers acquire Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox in a three-way deal that costs them only two minor leaguers and Ramirez’s $1-million relocation bonus. He will be paid the remaining $7 million of his $21-million salary by the Red Sox.
Dodgers finish 84-78 in their first season under Torre and lose to the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series.
Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers’ most talented and most popular player, is banned from baseball for 50 games after flunking a drug test. Ramirez, whose effervescent attitude and lethal bat had made him the face of this storied franchise, is labeled a cheater before a largely adoring fan base at Dodger Stadium.
On the eve of Game 1 of the NLCS against the Phillies, Frank and Jamie McCourt announce that they are separating after nearly 30 years of marriage. No reason is given for the separation. The announcement overshadows the fact that the Dodgers are playing in the NLCS in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1977-78.
Frank and Jamie McCourt each declares ownership of the Dodgers, with Frank saying he owns 100% of the team and Jamie saying she owns half.
Frank McCourt fires Jamie as chief executive of the Dodgers. Frank sends his estranged wife a letter asking her to contact human relations to arrange a time to return to her office and gather her belongings.
Jamie McCourt officially files for divorce from Frank and asks the court to reinstate her as CEO of the Dodgers.
The Dodgers Dream Foundation comes under investigation by the California attorney general’s office for payments it made to club executive Howard Sunkin. According to tax returns, Sunkin, the charity’s chief executive, earned a salary of nearly $400,000 in 2007, almost a quarter of the foundation’s budget.
The judge in the divorce case invalidates the postnuptial marital property agreement that Frank McCourt claimed provided him with sole ownership of the Dodgers. In the wake of this decision, McCourt’s lawyers say he will use other legal avenues to establish his sole ownership of the Dodgers, while Jamie McCourt’s lawyers say she will be confirmed as the co-owner of the team as community property of their marriage.
Giants fan Bryan Stow is attacked in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after the Dodgers’ opener against the San Francisco Giants. Stowe, wearing Giants attire, is attacked from behind by two men. Stow is in a coma for weeks and suffers brain damage.
Dodgers say they have repaid the amount of Sunkin’s $400,000 salary to the Dream Foundation.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says he will appoint a trustee to oversee day-to-day operations of the Dodgers, effectively removing Frank McCourt from power.
Major League Baseball announces that Selig has rejected the TV deal with Fox, nullifying all terms of the agreement the McCourts had settled on three days earlier.
A Delaware judge clears the way for Frank McCourt to borrow $150 million from a hedge fund to cover his looming bills, keeping the embattled Dodgers’ owner in charge for now.
The bankruptcy judge rejects the Dodgers’ demands to depose Commissioner Bud Selig and obtain a wide range of documents about other teams’ financial, security and television deals.
Frank McCourt would be signing “a deal with the devil” by accepting a loan offered by a commissioner intent on stripping McCourt of his team, attorneys for the Dodgers owner argue in a Bankruptcy Court filing.
Frank McCourt and Bud Selig head into Bankruptcy Court, with each side trying to persuade the judge not to let the other control the Dodgers’ finances.
Frank and Jamie McCourt could pay more in divorce bills than the Dodgers pay any of their players, as the legal costs mount in what might well be the costliest split in state history.
Dodgers likely to lose $27 million because of dramatic decline in attendance.
An announced crowd of 25,381, a season low, sees the Dodgers lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-2.
Major League Baseball asks a federal bankruptcy judge to order the sale of the Dodgers, arguing in court papers that Frank McCourt’s plan to retain ownership of the team is “dead on arrival.”
Fox Sports sues the Dodgers, trying to halt the proposed television rights sale that Frank McCourt says is his key to emerging from bankruptcy as the team owner.
Dodgers finish the season with a winning record.
If Bud Selig wants to strip Frank McCourt of his ownership of the Dodgers for violating baseball rules, the commissioner had better be prepared to prove his case.
Frank and Jamie McCourt reach a divorce settlement.
Dodgers slash season ticket prices, in some cases by as much as 60%. The Dodgers had ranked among the top three in tickets sold every year since 2004, when Frank McCourt bought the team.
Frank McCourt appears close to agreement with Major League Baseball on a bankruptcy settlement in which he would agree to sell the team.
Frank McCourt agrees to sell the Dodgers, abruptly surrendering the team after fighting to retain it over two years and in two courts.
McCourt and Major League Baseball agree to seek approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for an auction of the Dodgers. The sale is expected to include the team, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots, a package bought by McCourt for $421 million in 2004 and likely to sell for two to three times as much now.
The league hopes a new Dodgers owner can be in place by opening day.
Frank McCourt apologizes to Dodgers fans for the ownership struggle of the last two years.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross approves the Dodgers’ settlements with Major League Baseball and Fox Sports, clearing the most significant legal obstacles from the pending sale of the team.
Dodgers bidders are cut to three. The finalists: a group led by hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen and Los Angeles billionaire and philanthropist Patrick Soon-Shiong; a group led by Magic Johnson and veteran baseball executive Stan Kasten; and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
The parties eliminated: a partnership between Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley and Los Angeles investor Tony Ressler; and a bid by Stanley Gold and the family of the late Roy Disney.
A group led by Lakers legend Magic Johnson agrees to pay $2 billion for the Dodgers, a record price for a sports franchise if the sale is approved. In addition, owner Frank McCourt and “certain affiliates of the purchasers” would buy the land surrounding Dodger Stadium for $150 million.
Frank McCourt surrenders ownership of the Dodgers, closing a turbulent chapter in the history of one of baseball’s most historic franchises.
Sources: Times research
Credits: Megan Garvey, Houston Mitchell, Maloy Moore, Ben Welsh, TimelineSetter