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.’
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
“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.