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Are the McCourts in danger of becoming owners only the Great Gatsby could love?

February 24, 2010 |  7:28 am

Frank It seems like only yesterday I was saying how easily the McCourts made it to distrust them. Oh, yeah. How silly.

It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, it’s the old McCourts.

The latest exciting tidbit on the inner workings of the Dodgers owners comes courtesy of L.A. Times’ business columnist Michael Hiltzik, and this one’s a doozy.

Hiltzik writes, again through documents filed in their ongoing divorce proceedings, that for the last six years Frank and Jamie McCourt have pocketed $108 million.

And during that time they paid zero in federal and state income taxes.

That’s zero. ZERO. Nada. Less than you and I will pay today alone. Unless, apparently, you happen to be stupidly rich.

Ugh, how many more revelations like these can we really take? If only it were just about baseball.

It’s not, of course, and as Bill Shaikin writes, the reasonably fast May 24 court case to decide which of the McCourts actually owns the team could be postponed to the All-Star break or even to the end of the season.

And then comes the divorce trial. By then, we may all be numb from it all. Or really big Angels fans.

Hiltzik’s column comes a day after Shaikin wrote that court documents showed the McCourts anticipated reducing the amount of club revenue spent on player payroll from 46% in 2007 to 25% by 2013, and maintaining it at that level the next five years. While revenue doubled.

That possibility stung enough, and now comes the news that Joe Taxpayer is subsidizing their luxurious lifestyle. I think that’s what you call it when you own four homes in Malibu and Holmby Hills.

Now apparently nothing they have done to avoid paying taxes is illegal. I’d love to have their accountant, but I’m sure I couldn’t afford him. Their strategy involves taking enormous tax losses from commercial real estate they held before buying the Dodgers, refinancing their assets and other tax things I’ll let Hiltzik explain.

When the McCourts first purchased the Dodgers in 2004, they arrived from Boston armed with critics who were skeptical of their actual assets and accused them of grand manipulation of their financial numbers.

Even as they carried a respectable payroll, improved Dodger Stadium, directed charitable foundations and led the team to consecutive division titles, for many, suspicions of the past lingered.

And now comes this. Shameful stuff, really. Hard to fathom stuff. As F. Scott Fitzgerald told us in "The Great Gatsby," the rich are different than you and me.

Only, these rich people own the Los Angeles Dodgers, and as Frank McCourt has said on more than one occasion, that carries with it a civic responsibility. Like paying your fair share of taxes. Or at least some taxes.

As Hiltzik notes, "People who practice tax avoidance on this scale don't often emerge with their images unsullied." Or without a visit from the tax auditor.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are in Arizona preparing for a new season. Trust in that.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Frank McCourt. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

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