Recently Jon Weinbach of AOL FANHOUSE took a well-deserved whack at the pinata that is the McCourt’s ownership of the Dodgers.
(Speaking of money for nothing …)
Weinbach, bless his heart, further unraveled the McCourt’s dubious financial dealings with the Dodgers by exposing money-for-nothing schemes involving the McCourt’s two sons and various shell companies designed to funnel money to a “slush fund” set up for Frank’s personal use.
Over the past 18 months, the Los Angeles Dodgers paid nearly $4 million in “consulting services” to an entity that has done virtually nothing for the club, even as the team has made a concerted effort to raise ticket prices, trim payroll and acquire players on the cheap.
Moreover, the club paid two of Frank and Jamie McCourt’s adult sons large salaries — $400,000 and $200,000 per year, respectively — for services that are undefined and could not be described by either Frank or Jamie McCourt, according to court documents filed in the couple’s divorce case.
The official club duties of Drew and Travis McCourt couldn’t be described by their parents because, from what I’ve been told by anonymous Dodger staffers, they have no formal duties with the franchise. As noted by Weinbach, “neither of the McCourts’ sons is listed on the team’s staff directory.”
I have a sneaking feeling that Drew attending business school at Stanford and Travis working at Goldman Sachs in New York might have something to do with that.
Weinbach also notes Frank’s creative way of getting around his supposedly-capped $5 million per year club salary.
Beginning in 2008 and continuing through at least the first four months of 2010, the Dodgers paid $300,000 per month to an entity called the John McCourt Company for consulting services related to development of the real estate surrounding Dodger Stadium, according to court documents and statements made in court by both sides in April. Earlier this year, the Dodgers stopped paying the fees, but the payments continued to be paid by Blue Landco LLC, a different McCourt-owned entity.
The switch was significant because under the terms of the McCourts’ financing arrangement with lenders, Frank McCourt cannot receive more than $5 million in compensation from the Dodgers — but there are no such restrictions on payments from Blue Landco LLC. The fees to the John McCourt Company only came to light after a “laborious” discovery process related to the couple’s divorce, according to Jamie McCourt’s attorneys, one of whom described the John McCourt Company as a “Frank slush fund” after a hearing in April.
The payments to both the John McCourt Company and the couple’s sons took on added significance during the couple’s recent tussle over temporary spousal support. Jamie’s attorneys claimed the fees paid to the John McCourt Company, as well as the large salaries paid to Drew and Travis McCourt, were controlled by Frank, and therefore available to contribute to spousal payments to Jamie while the divorce case is on.
In deposition testimony and comments from both sides in court, it is not clear what, if anything, the John McCourt Company did to earn its substantial fees.
These are the same McCourts who have bought eight luxury homes in the six years they’ve owned the Dodgers, including two adjacent to the Playboy Mansion in ultra-exclusive Holmby Hills.
These are also the same McCourts who, as Weinbach points out, “in 2008 and 2009 spent less money signing draft picks than any other team in Major League Baseball.”
This past offseason, despite the club’s shortage of pitching, the Dodgers made no effort to re-sign starters Randy Wolf and Jon Garland. The team has been on the losing end when trying to acquire stars such as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, and in 2008, the Dodgers added Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake only after both players’ former teams agreed to pay most of their salaries.
If you sat down every Dodger season ticket holder for five minutes and revealed to them the McCourt’s business practices, how many of them do you think would fork over their hard earned money for season seats?
Sadly though, the chances of Frank and/or Jamie selling the team, barring an unforeseen divorce court development, is nil. Why? Because they. have. no. MONEY!
Every penny spent on Frank and Jamie’s $1,000,000+ per month lifestyle and those eight multi-million dollar homes came out of the pocket of Dodger fans and the club’s business partners.
Also remember mention that the Dodgers are Frank and Jamie’s gateway to pseudo-celebrity, something they obviously revel in. How else can you explain the two embarrassingly basking in the tabloid spotlight after hiring TMZ magnets Marshall Grossman, Sorrell Trope and David Boies as divorce lawyers?
The most amazing part of the story for Dodger fans is that this will likely end up as the best of times under the McCourt’s stewardship of the franchise. Just wait ’til the player development well runs dry and there’s no money left to acquire free agents. Perhaps then L.A. fans will finally wake up and start boycotting the club’s games in droves.