It’s always little people who get screwed. Look at the Dodgers. A mighty franchise brought down to the point where a soulless drone like Bud Selig is moved to seize control.
This is what happens when a marital spat gets out of hand. Used to be that Frank and Jamie McCourt were known as community-minded owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The pair came by the team the old-fashioned way, on borrowed money. Back in ’04, Fox Entertainment Group, a bastard child of Rupert Murdoch, offloaded what they considered to be an annoyance to McCourt for $430 million, mostly borrowed dollars.
So, there’s Frank McCourt, 58, Georgetown graduate, and his wife, Jamie, 58, Georgetown grad with a diploma from Université de Paris, law degree from the University of Maryland, and MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management (this is not someone to have a court fight with). The couple bought the Dodgers and moved to L.A. He, leaving behind his old life as a Boston real estate hustler and parking-lot proprietor; she, leaving behind her old life as wife of a Boston real estate hustler and parking-lot proprietor, to enter glamorous Los Angeles at the head of the parade, to wit: owners, and therefore custodians, of Dodgers baseball.
As citizens of the United States, we know you can live well on borrowed money, and the McCourt love bugs did just that. Hey, you have to live somewhere. Frank bought a 2.6-acre, 20,000-square-foot, $25 million Palladian villa and a 1.7-acre, 8400-square-foot, $6.5 million French country–style home in Holmby Hills. But, a man needs room to grow, so he bought two more homes in Malibu, one from Courteney Cox and friend for a lousy $27 million and change.
In March 2009, Frank promoted Jamie to the top, dubbed her Los Angeles Dodgers CEO. A Dodgers PR release said, “As CEO, Jamie will oversee the strategic direction and decisions of the organization, focusing on the development of relationships throughout the Dodgers community and Major League Baseball, and with corporate partners and public officials. Jamie will also lead business development initiatives in order to grow the global Dodgers brand across all platforms. She will remain responsible for driving the organizational culture within the Dodgers family.”
The infallible rule of thumb states that if you can’t describe your job in three words or less — dockworker, lawyer, teacher, stockbroker, computer programmer — then you have a fake job. Jamie’s new job requires 61 words, which makes it a world-class fake job.
But, fake or no, there she was, CEO. Seven months later, Frank fires her. Jamie files for divorce. Frank says she was having an affair with the chauffeur. Things went downhill from there.
Of course, money rolls downhill; in this instance, in the direction of Jamie God-bless-the-divorce-laws-of-California McCourt, who is asserting her right to 50 percent of the Dodgers.
Messy divorce cases bring out messy secrets. Court documents say the pair took $105 million from Dodgers World and yet, magically, paid no taxes. Their spawn had paid positions with the team but didn’t appear to be doing anything. The L.A. Times investigated and found that McCourt’s holding company, which owns the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, and the land around the ballpark, has $620 million of debt. And so on.
But, no matter what happens, Frank and Jamie will be fine. All the lawyers will be fine and then some. The Dodgers will be fine. Major League Baseball will be fine. But, you know who isn’t going to be fine? Vladimir Shpunt. The little guy.
Val, 72, worked for the Dodgers. He was employed there for five years. This is not an insignificant period of time. Val, a late-life Russian immigrant with three degrees in physics, settled in the Boston area. He was introduced to Jamie when she was suffering from a severe eye infection. He put his psychic powers to use and Jamie healed. Next thing you know, Val is employed by the Dodgers, tasked to send positive energy to the boys while they were on the field. Val figured his intercession was worth a bump of 10 to 15 percent in wins. In his five years, Val attended one game. He watched the other games at home on his TV, sending positive Val vibes coast to coast. His salary is said to have been in the six figures.
Let’s talk numbers. Val left the Dodgers in 2008, the year the lads won the National League West. Nowadays, the owners are in court, bankers at the door, and lawyers have infested the Los Angeles basin. Who will rehire Vladimir Shpunt and get the Dodgers back in the game?
I give you five words. Charlie Sheen and borrowed money.