Case Study: The McCourts and High Net Divorce

If you are facing a high net worth divorce, full of complex financial arrangements and significant investments, it is in your best interest to find an experienced family law attorney who understands the dramatic risks involved. You need an attorney who not only appreciates your joint economic situation, but also knows how to legally secure your rightful portion. After all, you don’t want to reach the final agreement, only to realize how much was left on the table. Unfortunately, such is the case of many high net worth couples. They may start off on relatively equal footing, but as the proceedings come to a close, the disparity in the settlement becomes painfully clear – to at least one person.

Case in point: the recent divorce between LA Dodger’s ex-owner Frank McCourt and wife Jamie McCourt.

The McCourts were Boston real estate royalty before they ventured west, earning millions in commercial real estate deals throughout New England. In 2004, Frank bought the Dodgers from Rupert Murdoch for little over $425 million. Jamie McCourt was installed as CEO, while Frank operated as both owner and in-the-trenches manager. Despite a string of controversial firings, the Dodger’s experienced unparalleled success during the McCourt’s tenure. This all came to a crashing halt in 2009, when the couple filed for divorce after 30 years of marriage. Frank fired Jamie McCourt from her post at Dodger’s stadium and the franchise fell into a tailspin, filing for bankruptcy shortly thereafter.

The McCourts divorce proceedings faired no better, with their prenuptial agreement found to be invalid. This left their greatest asset – the Dodger’s – in question. Frank’s legal team insisted he was the sole owner, while Jamie’s defense claimed she was co-owner, as the team was considered marital property. With the team’s performance, reputation and overall worth rapidly declining as the divorce raged on, Jamie finally accepted a deal that relinquished her claim on the Dodger’s, leaving her with $131 million in liquid assets and a variety of luxury properties. This would turn out to be a costly error. A year later Frank McCourt would sell the team for record $2 billion to Guggenheim Baseball Management.

Jamie McCourt attempted to appeal her final asset agreement of $131 million, insisting Frank had misled her on the Dodger’s valuation and she deserved half of what was earned on the sale. This past month, the California 2nd District Court of Appeals found in favor of Frank McCourt, after his legal team demonstrated conclusively that Jamie McCourt was provided all the documentation necessary to effectively valuate the team’s worth, prior to the sale. While Jamie McCourt retained a considerable amount of money and property in the divorce, she could have been eligible to well over a half-billion dollars had the proper care been taken to evaluate the marital property.

Whether the fault lies with Jamie, her legal team or both, one thing is for certain: when it comes to high net worth divorces such as these, you can never be too careful. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact the Law Office of Rick D. Banks today.