LA's Best Soap Opera

Hosted by

This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

This week, Mayor Villaraigosa and the president of the LA City Council, that's Eric Garcetti, made guest appearances on ABC's long-running daytime soap All My Children

It was all in fun, essentially a gimme for the show moving to new studios in the Glassell Park area of Northeast LA.

Less fun was had this week by actors in the city's not so long-running, but more real soap opera. That's the courtroom drama starring Frank and Jamie McCourt, the estranged owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Or…they used to call themselves co-owners. Until their marriage hit the skids very publicly, they were the happy It Couple of a certain strata of Los Angeles society.

Entertaining Villaraigosa and other local luminaries in their field level box at the stadium. Floating their goals for helping L.A. youth. Buying high profile real estate on the Westside.

Now, of course, Frank McCourt contends that Jamie was a figurehead who didn't contribute anything real. And, more pointedly, he and his lawyers plan to argue that she signed away her ownership share of the team in a post-nup document.

Jamie's side counters that she, a hard-nosed lawyer and deal-maker in their Boston days, didn't know what she was signing. But that it wasn't a quitclaim to her interest in the Dodgers.

With the team heading off to Glendale, Arizona for spring training, the lawyers limbered up with a filing that hints at the high ratings likely to come when McCourt v. McCourt heads into prime time.

The tabloid headline is that Jamie revised her much-commented on request for $488,000 in monthly support – by more than doubling it to $988,000.

That's a chunk of change. But her lawyers say it would still leave Frank with $1.3 million each month. She also contends that, right after the couple separated, Frank managed to erase $660 million in net worth from the books.

The truly revealing clauses in the legal brief divulge more details of the grand ambitions the McCourts assumed after they acquired –- with borrowed money -- the storied baseball gold mine that is the Dodgers.

Frank lives in a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, has spent $52,000 on clothes since November, and keeps two sons on the Dodgers' payroll -- combined salary $600,000 a year – even though one's a grad student at Stanford and the other works full-time for Goldman Sachs.

The McCourts haven't paid a dime in federal or California income taxes since at least 2004, due to clever accounting, Jamie's brief also asserts.

Over the same period, Dodgers revenue has risen from $156 million to this year's projected $290 million, though the profits –- on paper -- have been slim to basically none.

Jamie's submission also discloses that the McCourts still crave to develop the parking lots at Dodger Stadium –- with an NFL stadium, shopping and housing.

Those plans would require a lot of official approvals and concessions, which makes the McCourts and their dreams major players in City Hall and neighborhood politics.

It also colors the fact that the mayor sits in the owners' box at dozens of games a year, with the Dodgers VP for City Hall often seen hovering nearby.

The new brief also reveals that the Dodgers intend to launch cable channels in English and Spanish after the team's deal ends with Fox Sports Net, whose executives will surely be glad to know this, if they didn't already.

So you see why the McCourts drama is about much more than tabloid entertainment. And that's not even taking into account how the Dodgers might do on the field this year – a topic for another day.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.