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McCourt divorce trial opens

August 30, 2010 |  9:03 am

Frank and Jamie McCourt arrived at Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday morning for the first day of their divorce trial.

Jamie McCourt, wearing a white dress and sunglasses, arrived at the courthouse in downtown L.A. surrounded by a horde of reporters and cameramen. She declined to comment as she entered the building with her attorneys by her side.

Bypassing reporters, Frank McCourt entered the courthouse through a side door.

The McCourts took over the Dodgers in 2004, with the baseball organization announcing at the time that "Frank and Jamie McCourt were confirmed as the fourth owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers..."

That statement is the central issue in the couple’s divorce: Does he own the team or do they own it jointly?

Frank McCourt wants the court to enforce a post-marital agreement -- signed in 2004 by both spouses -- that says he is the sole owner of the team and that she is the sole owner of the couple's homes.

Jamie McCourt, who in 2009 became chief executive of the team and the highest-ranking woman in Major League Baseball, wants the agreement thrown out.

Jamie McCourt has maintained she never would have knowingly signed away her right to the Dodgers. She says she signed the agreement without reading it, trusting her husband when he said the document was designed to protect the couple's homes from creditors.

Frank McCourt says the document did exactly what he said it did and that Jamie McCourt wanted it that way, that she insisted upon such an agreement so as not to risk losing the homes if the McCourts failed to reverse the Dodgers' financial losses.

He says he would have been "wiped out" in two years had those losses not been reversed, and that Jamie McCourt cannot change the agreement now simply because the value of the Dodgers has gone up and the value of the homes has gone down.

Leah Bishop, a Los Angeles estate planning attorney, is scheduled to be the first witness on Jamie McCourt's behalf. In a 2008 meeting, Bishop explained to the McCourts that the agreement specified that Frank McCourt was the sole owner of the Dodgers.

"That's not what it was supposed to be," Frank McCourt allegedly told Bishop.

Jamie McCourt says this is evidence that she and her husband intended to share ownership of the team. Frank McCourt says the context of his comment referred to what would happen to the Dodgers if he died, not if the couple divorced.

-- Carlos Lozano and Bill Shaikin

Photo: Jamie McCourt arrives at Los Angeles County Superior Court, where a bench trial on who owns the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team is being held. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times