Hope on the horizon for LA Dodgers as $130m break-up nears final inning

 

Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers may or may not be relieved to hear that the ugly and wildly expensive divorce war between its married-couple owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, may at last be close to conclusion and that the fate of the team itself may thereafter be resolved with reasonable dispatch.

Sources close to Mrs McCourt broadly confirmed last night the outlines of a settlement reported by the Los Angeles Times under which she would yield full control of the team to her husband in return for about $130m (£82.4m). If confirmed, the agreement represents a breakthrough in a divorce struggle already considered the most expensive in California's history.

Records show the McCourts had already incurred legal bills of $20.6m by the end of July. The issue of whether the Dodgers belonged just to Frank McCourt or to them both has been one of the most vexing for their lawyers.

Mr McCourt, who put the team into bankruptcy proceedings this summer, should now be free to seek permission to sell the team's lucrative television rights, a sale which should in theory give him the financial muscle not just to settle the divorce case but also retain ownership of one of America's most storied sporting franchises.

In that, however, Mr McCourt is likely to encounter a new foe in court. The baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, has asked the judge in the bankruptcy case to order that the entire franchise be sold outright. Mr McCourt is expected to counter, petitioning the judge to deny the commissioner's request and allow for the separate television rights auction. A hearing at the bankruptcy court in Delaware is set for tomorrow.

For Los Angeles, the break-up of the McCourts has been almost as diverting as the Dodgers' league progress. The saga was leavened from the start by Mrs McCourt's revelations of their extravagant lifestyle with private jet travel, exorbitant hotel and restaurant bills and the cost of keeping up their many homes. She served as the Dodgers' chief executive until fired by her husband who, in a letter of dismissal, complained of "insubordination, non-responsiveness, failure to follow procedures and inappropriate behaviour with a direct subordinate" – a reference to claims his wife had entered a relationship with a driver.

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