Al­leged af­fair cited in McCourt trial

Con­sul­tant says he felt ‘sad for Mr. McCourt and his sons’ based on re­ports link­ing Jamie to driver. Her lawyer calls it ‘scripted.’

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - Bill Shaikin and Carla Hall

A divorce trial that had tilted heav­ily to­ward le­gal de­tail took a brief turn to­ward the sala­cious Mon­day, with the first and only ref­er­ence to the af­fair that Frank McCourt cited in fir­ing Jamie McCourt as the Dodgers’ chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer.

Corey Busch, a vet­eran base­ball con­sul­tant who worked with the McCourts on the ac­qui­si­tion of the Dodgers, tes­ti­fied Mon­day he sent an e-mail to Frank — but not to Jamie — af­ter the cou­ple filed for divorce.

“With the af­fair — the al­leged af­fair — Mrs. McCourt had with her driver, I felt par­tic­u­larly sad for Mr. McCourt and his sons,” Busch said.

Out­side court, Den­nis Wasser, an at­tor­ney for Jamie, called that tes­ti­mony

McCourts,

“scripted,” a “low blow,” and said it was not rel­e­vant un­der Cal­i­for­nia’s no-fault divorce law.

The fi­nal wit­nesses in the trial ap­peared Mon­day, with no court ses­sion sched­uled Tues­day. Clos­ing ar­gu­ments are set for Wed­nes­day.

Los An­ge­les Su­pe­rior Court Judge Peter Lichtman, the me­di­a­tor in last Fri­day’s set­tle­ment talks, also con­sulted with both par­ties Mon­day. The sides are ex­pected to re­sume me­di­a­tion at some point fol­low­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments.

In the ab­sence of a set­tle­ment, Judge Scott Gor­don would have un­til Dec. 28 to rule whether the Dodgers be­long solely to Frank McCourt or whether they should be con­sid­ered com­mu­nity prop­erty.

Busch was one of five wit­nesses Mon­day, each of whom tes­ti­fied Jamie had told him about her ur­gency to iso­late the cou­ple’s busi­nesses in Frank’s name and the res­i­dences in hers so cred­i­tors could not touch the homes.

Jamie’s lawyers have re­peat­edly said she did not con­sider the pur­chase of the Dodgers a par­tic­u­larly risky propo­si­tion, a point on which her side ap­peared to stum­ble dur­ing cross-ex­am­i­na­tion of the Dodgers’ chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, Peter Wilhelm.

“Did you ever hear Jamie McCourt say, ‘Don’t make the deal, Frank’ ”? asked James Fox Miller, an at­tor­ney for Jamie. “Yes,” Wilhelm said. Wilhelm said that con­ver­sa­tion oc­curred in late 2003. Wasser said the con­ver­sa­tion was not rel­e­vant since the McCourts ul­ti­mately de­cided to ac­quire the Dodgers the fol­low­ing year.

Jeff In­gram, the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the McCourt Group, tes­ti­fied the com­pany’s “as­set-rich, cash-poor” real es­tate op­er­a­tions — even be­fore the Dodgers ac­qui­si­tion — had driven Jamie’s de­sire to se­cure the homes.

In a 2001 e-mail ti­tled “Could be an in­ter­est­ing sum­mer,” In­gram warned Frank and Jamie they could run out of money in six to eight months. In­gram tes­ti­fied the cou­ple never did.

How­ever, in a 2003 e-mail ti­tled “Whoa, Nel­lie,” In­gram cau­tioned the McCourts to re­strain spend­ing on such items as “Re­dec­o­rat­ing the room next to Frank with plasma screens and cus­tom ta­bles and lord knows what else” and “Pos­si­bly hav­ing a renowned artist paint a mu­ral in Frank’s of­fice.”

In a sub­se­quent 2003 email ti­tled, “Here we go again,” In­gram expressed Jamie’s con­cern that she could run out of money for fam­ily ex­penses in three months. In­gram wrote that “the bar mitz­vah and re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties (land­scap­ing)” would cost nearly $500,000.

In that e-mail, In­gram wrote of the McCourts’ “love-hate re­la­tion­ship with cash (love to have it, hate to keep it ly­ing around).”

In­gram said out­side court the Dodgers have no deal on the ta­ble from Fox to ex­tend the team’s tele­vi­sion con­tract. USA To­day re­ported Mon­day that Fox had agreed to a 20-year, $3-bil­lion deal with the Texas Rangers; the Dal­las Morn­ing News and Hous­ton Chron­i­cle re­ported the deal would be worth $1.6 bil­lion.

Fox also has held dis­cus­sions with the Dodgers for an ex­ten­sion likely to be worth more than the Rangers deal, mul­ti­ple sources have told The Times. Such an ex­ten­sion could dou­ble the Dodgers’ an­nual tele­vi­sion rev­enue and could help Frank fi­nance a set­tle­ment pay­out to Jamie.

If he were to sign a longterm ex­ten­sion with Fox, Frank would de­fer his plans to launch the “DTV: Dodger Tele­vi­sion” cable chan­nel. Dis­ney put the An­gels and Ducks up for sale in 2002, af­ter the com­pany aban­doned its plan to launch an “ESPN West” cable chan­nel an­chored by the two teams.

The McCourts con­sid­ered buy­ing both Dis­ney teams, ac­cord­ing to Robert Leib, a con­sul­tant who worked on their po­ten­tial ac­qui­si­tions of the An­gels and Bos­ton Red Sox.

Frank de­clined to dis­cuss the ex­tent of his in­ter­est in the Ducks. Leib said out­side court Frank had con­sid­ered whether Dis­ney might look fa­vor­ably on a buyer will­ing to ac­quire both of its mon­ey­los­ing teams.

“Frank was will­ing to look at any­thing. He’s a very strate­gic thinker,” Leib said.

Frank de­cided not to bid for the Ducks, a team bought in 2005 by Henry and Su­san Sa­mueli. He lost the An­gels bid­ding to Arte Moreno in 2003, then bought the Dodgers for $430 mil­lion in 2004.

The com­bined sale price of the An­gels and Ducks: $258.5 mil­lion.

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