Sorrell Trope, Frank's lead counsel, has stayed mostly quiet, letting his foils Dennis Wasser and Bert Fields grab most of the lawyerly spotlight. That might have been for the best. Today:
"If we look at this case, realistically, you can't order Mr. McCourt to borrow money to pay support," Trope told Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon.
"These people have lived their lives with borrowed money," Trope said. "They have to stop spending. This isn't the federal government."
"Where are we?" Trope asked. "This is like Alice in Wonderland, but you can't keep Alice in Wonderland going by borrowing on every single asset you have."
Oh my. So, if you're following along, Frank's side admits that the couple spent wildly. In fact, in his filings, Frank called their lifestyle "out of control [and] unsustainable." To make things clear, let's remember that "these people"--who lived their lives on borrowed money and have to stop spending--are the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I've been slow to jump to conclusions, but it's hard to ignore what's staring us right in the face. The owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers lived on money they borrowed from the team, and, according to one of them, did so at an "out-of-control, unsustainable" rate. In the corporate world, this would be outrageous. This would be Enron, or something like it. The owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to one of them, blatantly abused their power and jeopardized the team's well-being to support their own "out-of-control, unsustainable" lifestyle.
And that's not even the strangest part of all this. Frank's argument here is that the lifestyle he and Jamie led...well, this seems to be the right time to rein things in a little bit. Now is the right time to begin living a life of restraint and responsibility. Having realized the foolishness of his ways, it's imperative that Frank and Jamie begin to act like proper stewards of a treasured civic asset. Now that Frank's being asked to pick up Jamie's tab.
Is Frank wrong about having to rein in spending? I don't think anyone who's followed this saga would say so. I don't think anyone has a problem with the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers living a glamorous, enviable lifestyle. Most of us are completely comfortable with the reality that some people have it better than others, and the owners of a professional baseball team are some people.
But such a lifestyle cannot be funded by the club in such a way as to damage the health of the organization. It's bad enough that major league payroll is obscenely low for a team playing in such a huge market. And it's bad enough that this frugality at the major league level isn't balanced by spending on amateur free agents or premium draft picks. And it's bad enough that plans are in place to double ticket prices without increasing player spending.
No, where it really starts to sting is here:
From 2004 through 2009, the McCourts received in excess of $108,000,000 in what was characterized as "ownership distributions" from the McCourt Enterprise. . . . Further, those funds were not reduced by any income tax liabilties because the parties have not paid any federal or California income taxes since they moved to California in 2004.
On a recurring and systematic basis, large loans have been obtained, several of which were secured and/or paid by such future income streams. Substantial portions of the proceeds of those "monetizations" and other capital events then were used in whatever manner directed by the McCourts. When needed by the parties, millions of dollars of those funds were distributed to them.All for what Frank's attorney now characterizes as an "out-of-control, unsustainable" lifestyle fueled by money borrowed on every asset the McCourts had.
They have to stop spending. This isn't the federal government.
And this is where they're at. Jamie's job is to flaunt the extravagance of their marital lifestyle--she believes, and perhaps rightly so--that Frank's dramatically overstating the direness of the situation. And it's Frank's job to say the couple so grossly mismanaged the Dodgers that, starting right this second, he can no longer afford to support one life in the fast lane, let alone two.
What a mess.
I'll be on The Filter with Fred Roggin tonight at 7:40ish Pacific to discuss the divorce. If you have something called KNBC Digital Channel 4.2, you can find it there. Otherwise, it should be available online here.