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Judge Rules Frank McCourt Not Sole Owner of Dodgers

Frank McCourt

Sept. 17: Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, center, shakes hands with hitting coach Don Mattingly, right, after a news conference to name Mattingly the Dodgers manager for the 2011 season and that Joe Torre, left, will step aside from the position in Los Angeles. (AP)

LOS ANGELES -- A judge has ruled that a postnuptial marital agreement giving sole ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers to Frank McCourt is not valid, a spokesman for his estranged wife Jamie McCourt said Tuesday.

The decision means the Dodgers could be shared under California's community property law, spokesman Mark Fabiani told The Associated Press.

The ruling was not expected to affect the Dodgers operations, but it may lead both sides to resume settlement negotiations.

Fabiani said he saw the decision issued by Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon but had not yet reviewed the entire document. Steve Sugerman, Frank McCourt's spokesman, said he couldn't immediately comment.

The ruling came after an 11-day trial that focused on whether the signed pact between Jamie and Frank McCourt in 2004 should decide who owns the team.

Frank McCourt contends the agreement gives the Dodgers to him. His estranged wife argues no one told her she gave up her purported stake in the team by signing the document.

The couple have been embroiled in a nasty and costly divorce trial, where legal bills alone are estimated to top $20 million.

The case has provided the public a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a Major League Baseball team. Through testimony and reams of court documents, observers have learned about the Dodgers' finances and how the former couple's lavish lifestyle affected the team.

Although both sides gave differing accounts of what their intentions were when they signed the agreement, one aspect was clear -- neither of them read the agreement closely enough. The pact spelled out how their assets would be divided in the event of a divorce.

Jamie McCourt, 56, maintained she was the team's co-owner and would never have signed away her purported stake in the Dodgers had she know the agreement took it away from her.

Frank McCourt, 57, countered the pact was his wife's idea so she could protect her separate property -- a group of opulent homes -- from his business creditors.

Both took the witness stand during the trial and gave snapshots of their nearly 30-year marriage.

Jamie McCourt's legal team argued the pact wasn't valid because their client didn't have her own attorney when they signed the agreement, and Frank McCourt eventually agreed to make all their assets community property.

Frank McCourt's attorneys countered that their client is recognized by Major League Baseball as the sole owner of the Dodgers, and Jamie McCourt never identified herself as a co-owner.

The Dodgers were hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars every year under previous owners before the team was purchased in 2004 for about $430 million most of which was financed by short-term loans, according to court documents.

Jamie McCourt testified that she and Frank McCourt frequently talked about selling the team if they couldn't turn around its financial misfortunes.

Most of the McCourts' assets have been tied up in real estate and they both argued in court documents they have been strapped for cash despite their affinity for spending. Court documents indicated the former couple has taken out more than $100 million in loans from Dodger-related businesses.

The McCourts often traveled by private jet, spent $14 million to rip out tennis courts to build an indoor, Olympic-size swimming pool and splurged on items such as designer clothing.

The McCourts also have argued about the value of the Dodgers and its facilities. Frank McCourt's legal team puts it somewhere between $800 million and $900 million, while Jamie McCourt estimates the potential amount at more than $2 billion.

Jamie McCourt was fired in October as the team's CEO where she drew a $2 million salary. She filed for divorce the same month, citing irreconcilable differences. The McCourts have been married since 1979 and have four grown sons.