Great Moments in Chutzpah: Ex-Dodgers co-owner Jamie McCourt plays the victim

Associated Press
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There is a profile of former Dodgers co-owner Jamie McCourt in today’s Boston Globe. The upshot: McCourt is making a public comeback, going on the lecture circuit explaining to women how they need to be aware of their financial situation so they don’t “learn the hard way about [their] relationship with money,” the way Jamie McCourt said she did due to her ignorance and naïveté back when she and her husband got divorced and the Dodgers were sold.

Except the story is so divorced from reality that I’m having trouble gathering myself. If I were reading this in hard copy and not on my computer I’d throw the newspaper across the room.

Let’s take a trip back in the wayback machine to 2010 and 2011 to see why this article and Jamie McCourt’s claims therein are pure ridiculousness.

In those days the Dodgers ownership situation was a raging tire fire. Co-owners Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie were in the middle of ugly divorce proceedings and, as they broke up, their personal and financial life was splashed all over the newspapers. It was a sordid mess. At least one extramarital affair and restraining orders. Financially, there were stories of real estate binges resulting in multiple houses in the same city, including a couple next door to each other, with one to do extra laundry (seriously). Thousands of dollars on fresh flowers a day, clothes, vacations and excess that would make Robin Leach say “that’s a bit much, you guys.”  All the while the Dodgers were being used as a personal piggy bank for McCourt family expenses and the team was saddled with debt, debt, debt as far as the eye could see.

This was not, however, a case of financial morons irresponsibly spending money. It was a story of sophisticated and knowledgable businesspeople irresponsibly spending money. Frank McCourt was a Georgetown-educated head of a family real estate and development business which has existed for nearly a century. For her part, Jamie McCourt was both a partner in that business and an international securities lawyer with an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to boot. In addition to their ownership interest in the Dodgers, they were each active members of team management. Frank was the MLB-designated control person, but Jamie ran many aspects of the club and was involved in matters relating to broadcasting and regional sports network negotiations. In short, they knew what the hell they were doing and she was no babe in the woods when it came to the family business.

Their dispute over ownership of the Dodgers was resolved in October of 2011. At the time it seemed like Jamie got a great deal. She got $131 million out of it despite the fact that her claims to true joint ownership of the team were somewhat tenuous and despite the fact that, at the time, all of Frank’s debts and the Dodgers’ debts — something on the order of $800 million worth — looked like a sale of the team wouldn’t bring anything close to a windfall. Heck, McCourt looked like he’d maybe — maybe — break even. Most observers felt that Jamie made a savvy deal to extricate herself from a possible ruinous sale of the team. A tip of the cap to the sharp MBA/JD and her legal team which consisted of Bert Fields, perhaps the most famous divorce lawyer on the planet, and a no doubt large cadre of financial and business advisors.

But then something crazy happened: Frank McCourt sold the Dodgers to Mark Walter’s ownership group for an astounding $2 billion and made out like a bandit. It was shocking even to people who followed sports business closely and represented a windfall for Frank McCourt that should’ve shaken anyone with a belief in cosmic justice to their senses. Jamie, realizing that her once apparently savvy deal no longer looked so great, tried to reopen the case and get a bigger cut of the Dodgers windfall. The court told her “sorry” however. She made a deal and she was stuck with it. The end.

Except now she’s peddling a story — and likely a hefty speaking fee — to “proselytize why women should care about money” and to warn women about what could happen to them if they are ignorant of their personal finances. Which is an important topic, to be sure. Just not one for which Jamie McCourt’s personal story is any sort of applicable example. She had every advantage that women who truly are placed in perilous financial (and often personal) situations following a divorce do not have. She is holding herself out as a cautionary tale when, in reality, there are women whose lives were actually and utterly destroyed as a result of the financial, emotional and physical manipulation of men and a legal system which is often complicit in such ugliness. The message is a good one. The messenger is wildly inappropriate.

It’d be one thing if this story appeared on the society page. In that case it’d be more about someone’s public profile and it’d be easier to accept the story Jamie McCourt is telling herself and others at face value. But this appears in the business section. How, then, there is essentially zero scrutiny of McCourt’s agency in what “befell” her a few years back is rather astounding.