McCourt lawyers focus on postnup in closing arguments of case to decide Dodgers ownership

By Greg Risling, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

McCourt postnup at center of closing arguments

LOS ANGELES — A marital agreement that could determine ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers should be thrown out because one version gave the team to Frank McCourt and another called for joint ownership with his wife Jamie McCourt, her lawyer told a judge Wednesday.

In his closing argument at the divorce trial, attorney Dennis Wasser gave a Power Point presentation that included two sections entitled “Smoking Guns” and “Hurdles Frank Cannot Overcome.” In both, Wasser directed his ire at Larry Silverstein, the couple’s attorney who helped draft the postnuptial agreement and supposedly advised them about its effects.

Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon has 90 days to decide whether Frank McCourt is the sole owner of the team, its stadium and surrounding land worth hundreds of millions of dollars, or if the 10-page document should be thrown out and the couple’s assets divided as community property. He also could order the sale of the team.

Jamie McCourt’s lawyer suggested fraud was committed when one version of the postnuptial agreement was replaced with the other, but he doesn’t believe Frank McCourt instructed Silverstein to do it.

“My theory is he was acting as (Frank McCourt’s) agent,” Wasser said of Silverstein. “He wasn’t doing it for himself. He wasn’t doing the switch for Jamie.”

Silverstein testified during the trial that he believed he swapped a key portion of the agreement but failed to tell the couple.

Wasser believes Frank McCourt and Silverstein tailored their testimony when forensic analysts discovered the switch this summer after an examination of the documents.

“The story that Frank and Mr. Silverstein are giving is reverse engineering,” Wasser said. “The story is scripted.”

Frank McCourt denied during testimony that he knew about the switch.

During their closing arguments, attorneys for Frank McCourt said the postnuptial agreement should be validated because their client and his estranged wife always intended to have the Dodgers as his separate asset. Lawyer Sorrell Trope said that Jamie McCourt was the driving force behind the agreement.

Frank McCourt’s attorneys also said she wanted no part in the risk associated with the $430 million purchase of the Dodgers that was mostly funded by short-term loans to be repaid within two years. They pointed out that Jamie McCourt didn’t call any witnesses during the trial to corroborate her claim that she was a team owner.

“When parties sign two versions of a contract which contain directly contradictory material terms, there is no meeting of the minds and hence, no contract at all,” Wasser said.

Wasser also told the judge his client had been ridiculed for admitting she didn’t read the agreement before signing it in March 2004, but he pointed out her estranged husband had done the same thing a month later when he signed three copies in California.

Wasser reiterated Jamie McCourt wouldn’t have signed away her purported stake in the Dodgers.

“You know and everyone in this courtroom knows, and even Frank knows, she would never give up the Dodgers,” Wasser said to Gordon. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The McCourts, armed with a cadre of high-powered lawyers, have met at the negotiating table several times to try to settle the dispute. The most recent session came Friday with no resolution.

They were expected to resume mediation on Oct. 9, according to court spokesman Allan Parachini.

Jamie McCourt was fired in October as the team’s CEO, a job that paid her a $2 million annual salary. She filed for divorce the same month, citing irreconcilable differences. The couple have been married since 1979 and have four grown sons.

She lost her initial bid to be reinstated as the team’s chief executive but was awarded $225,000 a month in temporary spousal support along with having her estranged husband pay more than $400,000 a month for the couple’s six homes and a condominium.

She had been seeking nearly $1 million a month; Frank McCourt had offered her $150,000.

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