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Frank and Jamie McCourt renew settlement talks over Dodgers in divorce case

March 3, 2011 | 11:56 am

Frank3 Frank and Jamie McCourt renewed settlement discussions on Wednesday, with the Dodgers weeks away from starting a second season under uncertain ownership.

Dennis Wasser, an attorney for Jamie McCourt, confirmed the discussions but declined to reveal anything about them. Steve Sugerman, the spokesman for Frank McCourt, declined to comment.

It is unclear whether additional discussions are scheduled.

"We believe settlement discussions are protected and should not be disclosed to anybody," Wasser said Thursday. "If they are, there's less chance the case will settle.

"If this issue can be settled between the parties, it would be better for the parties, the team and the community."

The McCourts have held settlement talks on several occasions in the 17 months since they filed for divorce, but Wednesday's discussions apparently were the first since a judge threw out an agreement that would have granted Frank sole ownership of the Dodgers.

Frank has said he would pursue a second trial to establish the Dodgers as his separate property, on grounds he bought the team using a company formed before marriage.

The court might set a trial date as far as two years away, said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney who is not involved in the McCourt case but has followed it closely. The prospect of such protracted litigation could nudge the parties toward settlement, she said.

"It may be so long before they have a trial that they can’t bear it any more," Soodik said.

The Dodgers' television contract with Fox also expires in two years. If the divorce is not resolved before then, Jamie could claim a stake in what are expected to be substantially higher television revenues.

Even if Frank can negotiate a new contract with Fox now and settle his divorce in the process, it is not certain that Commissioner Bud Selig would approve the contract. Selig already has rejected a proposed loan from Fox to Frank.

Jamie contends the Dodgers are community property and that she is half-owner of the team. Her lawyers have suggested Frank might not be able to retain control of the team unless he and Jamie become partners in running it.

--Bill Shaikin

Photo: Jamie and Frank McCourt in 2006. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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