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Frank McCourt denies changing property documents

Frank McCourt staunchly denied that he participated in "any way, shape, or form" in the switch of property listings in his and his estranged wife's signed marital property agreements.

In his third day on the stand in his divorce trial, McCourt said when he first heard that his wife's attorneys had suggested he might be part of a fraud, "needless to say I was extremely upset." He said he told his lawyers to hire a forensic examiner to look over the contracts.

The McCourts are battling over who owns the Dodgers -- is Frank McCourt the sole owner, or do he and Jamie McCourt as a couple share ownership? The couple signed six copies of a marital property agreement dividing their assets in 2004. It turns out that three copies listed the Dodgers as being included in Frank McCourt's property.

The other three exclude the Dodgers from that property. The couple signed the copies without closely examining half of them. After they signed the agreement, the lawyer who drafted it discovered the discrepancy, according to Frank McCourt's divorce lawyers. That lawyer then switched in a document that said the Dodgers were Frank McCourt's sole property.

Frank McCourt's divorce attorneys say that lawyer was just correcting a mistake. Initially, when the agreement was first being drawn up in March 2004, McCourt and the attorney went over a rough draft of the agreement.

The rough draft had a list of Frank McCourt's properties that said it was "exclusive" of the Dodgers. "My reaction was that it was an obvious mistake," McCourt testified Thursday morning. He added, "It was inconsistent with what Mrs. McCourt said in my presence ... about what she wanted to achieve" in the agreement.

The couple drew up the agreement in 2004 to list their homes in Jamie McCourt's name and the Dodgers and other assets in Frank McCourt's name. The purpose was to protect their homes from business creditors.

Jamie McCourt contends she never expected the agreement to govern how they divided assets in a divorce. Complicating their legal battle is the fact that they inadvertently signed two radically different versions of their marital property agreement -- one lists the Dodgers as his sole property. The other excludes the Dodgers from his sole property.

-- Carla Hall and Bill Shaikin

Comments () | Archives (6)

A person shouldn't be able to put an asset in another person's name for tax or liability reasons, and then turn around and claim that they're the sole owner as soon as their relationship with that person falls apart. The rich get out of paying a lot of taxes that way. But if you legally sign ownership over to another person, you're effectively giving them that property (or at least a percentage of it.) You shouldn't be able to say, "Oh, that was just for liability purposes, so it doesn't really count."

Frank's lawyer drew up a property agreement and accidently left off the Dodgers! I don't think so. That would be like driving off on vacation and not noticing that the family wasn't in the car with you. Who was his lawyer anyway, Paris Hilton?

America's past time died many years ago. This is merely one specter howling in the night.

I don't think there is anything wrong in shielding a family's assets from creditors, if the assets weren't used as collateral for the loans/credit line, or the assets were bought with the loans/credit line/leverage. I think it is smart risk management strategy.

However, a separate property agreement or any form of contract that uses debt to buy assets and then is used to shield the assets from the creditor's grasp by placing the title with another person in a marriage or family, if there is a bankruptcy is not worth the paper it is written on.

There is a case up in Washington State of Michael Mastro, who is trying to shield his assets from Bankruptcy Court by putting all in his wife's name, and the MPA of this case is not worth the paper it is written on, whether it is signed, notorized and filed.

I hate these two morons for ruining the Dodgers, but a lot of blame should go to Bud Selig for allowing these two yokels to buy the team.

It's pretty obvious that the judge is going to rule everything as communal property, at least any "large" asset. The trial is just for the public and going thru the legal motions literally. The McCourts, meaning both, have lost the team. It will be sold.


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