Only four days remain before the McCourts will face off in court to determine ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and every indication is that the trial will begin as scheduled. While it appeared that the possibility of a settlement was gathering momentum only a couple weeks ago, my sources are insistent that the trial will go forward. Other observers are hearing the same thing, and I now feel confident enough that I have booked flights and hotel down the street from the courthouse.
So why have the McCourts been unable to reach a settlement? Principally, I think it has to do with how Frank McCourt does business. A line of Frank's trial brief sums it up nicely:
Frank is an entrepreneur at heart and has an extreme tolerance for risky ventures that, potentially, could have big returns.While that sentence was written to provide background for how the McCourts got rich and why Jamie supposedly wanted the MPA, I think it applies here, too.
Settling is safe. Trial is risky. But the rewards of winning at trial are enormous. He'd preserve his vast net worth. Dodgers ownership would seem to be safely in McCourt hands for generations to come. And Jamie's name and image would be in the dumpster. Winning at trial represents the best possible outcome for Frank, and, as his attorneys tell the court, he has an extreme tolerance for the risks associated with litigating this matter until the end.
As for Jamie's part, she, too, feels well-prepared for trial. Her argument relies on several theories that, she argues, should lead the court to conclude that the MPA either never existed or should be enforced. As we did with Frank above, let's look at an excerpt from Jamie's trial brief that has meaning beyond its context:
Jamie trusted Frank as her marital and business partner to make decisions with respect to the way their businesses were structured, finances were arranged, and regarding tax planning matters. Jamie trusted Frank [and Bingham attoryney Lawrence Silverstein] not to present her with something that took away her rights to the very thing that was a life-long dream for her--owning a baseball team, which also represented the vast bulk of the parties' marital estate.Later:
Jamie is an intelligent business woman who would never have knowingly given up her interest in the Dodger Assets in return for the "protection" of residential properties worth far less.The emphasis is Jamie's attorneys'. And it is here we reach the impasse: Frank builds his case on the notion that Jamie had always sought protection from Frank's risky business ventures, which included the purchase of the Dodgers. Jamie contends that she never meant such protection to strip her of the assets in the context of the divorce, and that she never considered the Dodgers all that risky, anyway.
It's impossible to say how much of this is real, and how much is posturing. I do know that an awful lot of damage has been done, and each party is pretty well entrenched. Frank sees, in the trial, the opportunity of a lifetime, and he fervently believes the facts and law are on his side. Jamie feels aggrieved, wronged, and cheated. She believes that the court can come to no valid conclusion other than to rule the MPA null and void.
And that's why we're here today, counting down the hours to trial. Might it be settled in the eleventh hour? Perhaps. But Frank wouldn't hit his home run, and Jamie wouldn't get her vindication. A settlement remains the safe play, but Frank doesn't play safe. A settlement remains the quiet play, but Jamie doesn't play quiet. It's a fluid situation, but it sure looks like we have busy weeks ahead. My bags are packed.