TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: Major League Baseball came to the Los Angeles County legal system today. The couple that owns the Los Angeles Dodgers started a high profile, Hollywood-style divorce trial this morning. Actually, we don’t know who really owns the team, hence the trial. Frank McCourt says his wife, Jamie, signed away her rights to the Dodgers in a post-nuptial agreement a couple of years ago. California being a community property state, though, Jamie McCourt figures half the team and half of its value of something near $800 million belongs to her. Also at issue — because sometimes a billion dollar baseball club just isn’t enough — are who owns which of their seven houses, how many hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly living allowance is enough and who gets the private jet.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers stink, players are being released and Carla Hall is spending her mornings inside the courtroom covering the case for the Los Angeles Times. Carla, good to have you with us.
Carla Hall: Good to be there.
Ryssdal: Let’s set aside all the lawyering for a second and the who-did-what-to-whom in this case, and ask the fundamental baseball question, if we could, which is: What happens to the Dodgers if this thing just drags out forever?
Hall: Either way, no matter who wins, things could really change for the Dodgers. If he wins, he will be the sole owner of the Dodgers. However, he may be in a position to owe her an enormous amount of money. That might make him vulnerable to having to sell the Dodgers. On the other hand, if the judge decides that the Dodgers are community property, and they both own the Dodgers, that means either they’re both going to have to sell or they’re both going to have to get investors to help either one of them to buy out the other.
Ryssdal: Fair to say the tone is acrimonious?
Hall: Neither of the parties have testified yet. This is just opening day. I mean, there have been a couple of digs at each other. I would say it was kind of an establishment of tone.
Ryssdal: I’m looking at the Major League standings here on my computer in the studio. The Dodgers are 6.5 back of San Diego of the National League West. What does Major League Baseball have to say about this whole thing?
Hall: I think Major League Baseball is biding its time and waiting to see what the court decides. They always have to sign off on who the owners of the teams are, so they’ll be very concerned if either owner decides they want to either get more investors or sell to somebody else.
Ryssdal: Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers’ big slugger’s going to Chicago. The team is not doing real well. What are the odds of Ned Colletti the general manager being able to spend money on this team, while the ownership is tied up in what could be a really long court fight?
Hall: Well, the Dodgers have always maintained that the pot of money that they used to buy players and spend on the team is different from the pot of money that Frank is using to finance his lawyers.
Ryssdal: It is worth pointing out, though, isn’t it, that the McCourts between them have engineered things in the Dodgers’ financial structure to be able to take a huge amount of cash out of this team.
Hall: They have. They have used the Dodgers to back an enormous number of loans and they are highly leveraged people.
Ryssdal: What’s the best possible outcome for the team out of this whole thing?
Hall: I think the best possible outcome for the team is to have owners, one or more, who are really devoted to the team and want to spend money to get top-tier players. But McCourts have claimed to be truly in love with baseball and in love with the Dodgers, just not in love with each other, and so I guess we’ll have to see what happens at the end of the trial
Ryssdal: Dodgers against Philadelphia tonight, if you’re paying attention to the scoreboard. Carla Hall from the Los Angeles Times covering the McCourt trial in downtown Los Angeles. Carla, thanks a lot.
Hall: My pleasure.
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