Fired From Dodgers Job, Wife Fights Back

Divorce lawyer says Jamie McCourt's fight for Dodgers job may be "untenable."

October 28, 2009, 12:55 PM

Oct. 28, 2009— -- It's a major league divorce battle with a couple of sore losers.

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt fired his team's CEO and wife of 30 years after she began divorce proceedings.

And now she wants her $2 million job back.

Baseball's "War of the Roses" began just before the Dodgers lost the National League playoffs to the Philadelphia Phillies last week.

Frank McCourt threw a curveball at his wife, sending her a formal "notice of termination" posted on Dodgers letterhead, firing her just two weeks before their 30th wedding anniversary.

New York celebrity lawyer Raoul Felder said the case is more like the Cold War and the couple is destined for "mutually assured destruction.

"You get a case like this -- a MAD divorce -- and there are no winners," he told "It's a real mess. What's complicated is they both have stakes in the company. This is going to be good viewing. This divorce is going to be a lot of fun."

Jamie McCourt, 55, has filed a complaint with team attorneys that the move was tantamount to workplace harassment.

She is suing for divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences and, in court documents, she has also asked a judge to give her all the perks that go with the job -- private jet travel, five-star resorts and use of the Dodgers' owners' suite.

Jamie McCourt, 56, also wants $321,000 a month in support if she can get her job back or $488,000 a month if she stays unemployed.

The couple separated in July, when Jamie McCourt asked her husband to move out of their Malibu home. Married since 1979, they have four sons, 19 to 28 years old.

According to Radar Online, the couple met in college and has no prenuptial agreement.

Court documents filed by Jamie McCourt listed their net worth as more than $1.2 billion, including four homes in Los Angeles, two in Massachusetts and a condo in Vail, Colo., as well as ranchland in Montana and property in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

In court documents, Frank McCourt accused his wife of taking a trip with her bodyguard in early July to Israel on Dodgers business, but then traveling to France for 2½ weeks and billing the team.

He also said his wife did not give him information about her assignments as chief executive.

Dodger McCourt Says He Can Fire Wife at Will

The Dodgers owner has said he can fire his wife, an at-will employee, for any reason he wants.

Legal experts aren't so sure that was a home run, however.

"That's not a good move on several counts," said Linda Lea Viken, senior vice president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "First of all, it looks bad publicly and the judge is a human being and human beings don't like people treating each other badly. Second, if this woman is working for him and is paid money, she is now out of a job, and guess who will have to pay for her."

Dollar for dollar, alimony is also a better tax deduction than writing off her salary as a business expense, according to Viken, a South Dakota lawyer, who has handled similar husband-wife business cases.

If the relationship is truly toxic, she advises her clients to ask for a court order.

"Tell the judge the situation is intolerable," she told

"You have to think about how this is perceived and the net effect," Viken said. "The net effect is she doesn't have a job and now you'll pay."

But, according to William S. Beslow, the New York City lawyer who represented Nicole Kidman and Demi Moore in their divorces from Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis, respectively, the McCourts could take some lessons.

Both those divorces were amicable -- "the way these things should be," he told

Beslow said Jamie McCourt's legal efforts to get her job back are "kind of untenable," especially if she is an employee-at-will. "He can say. 'We hate each other.'

"One would think that there needs to be a certain cordiality between the owner of the team and the principal architect of management," he said. "They are fighting each other in court and in the press. It sounds nasty and a problem if they continued to work side by side. And there is the issue of what employees do in terms of loyalties."

But for now, Jamie McCourt is seething over the cold and impersonal termination letter, obtained by TMZ, in which her husband cites "insubordination, nonresponsiveness, failure to follow procedures and inappropriate behavior with regard to a direct subordinate" as reasons.

Frank McCourt even asked his wife to return her Dodgers employee manual.

Frank McCourt Fires Wife in Formal Letter

"It's an extraordinary document, like you were firing a secretary -- and this from a man to his wife of 30 years," said Jamie McCourt's personal attorney, Bert Fields.

"You are hereby terminated and accusing her of subordination," he told "I want to try that on my wife. She didn't obey her husband."

Jamie McCourt, who said the firing letter was meant to "humiliate and ostracize" her, has told the court she can't pay her bills and wants her soon-to-be-ex husband to pony up for attorney fees estimated at $2 million, as well as $500,000 for an accountant.

Fields said that their marital discord had been "simmering for some time.

"They tried not to let it affect the team and the playoffs," he said. "But they certainly knew there was a real problem. Sure, [the letter] was a very legal maneuver done in a way that extraordinary husband to wife -- to do it by letter rather than talking."

Fields claims Jamie McCourt is genuinely looking to get her job back -- and not just out of spite.

"She loves baseball and has been very active in the decision-making," he said. "It's not just a title. She is very involved in the Dodgers and wants enthusiastically to retain ownership."

Meanwhile, lawyers on both sides are sending mixed signals on ownership of the Dodgers. Estate records show Frank McCourt as sole owner, but his wife claims no new documents were ever signed and has a reputable witness to prove it, said Fields.

Frank McCourt's lawyer, Marshall Grossman, told media her account was a "fairy tale" and said the marital agreement lists the Dodgers and the adjoining property, including Dodger Stadium, as his client's separate assets. He said the couple agreed she would get the homes.

But divorce lawyers said the level of vitriol in the court battle means both husband and wife are likely to strike out. Only the public, eager for more juicy details, will score in this game.

"The McCourts are public figures, and everyone is interested in every prurient aspect of their lives," said AAML's Viken. "We are interested in the lives of the rich and famous and take delight that they have troubles like everyone else. Unfortunately, it puts ideas in people's minds.

"I think about Demi Moore, and there was not one word written about the matter -- the only time there was press was when it was settled," he said of the divorce.

"I am hopeful there is some enormously strong reason for this dispute to be aired in public. Presumably, these people are not acting in a humane and appropriate manner. Why don't they do what others do, and resolve it privately?"

ABC information specialist Nicholas Tucker contributed to this report.

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