The McCourt's Messy Divide

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Ordinarily, the breakup of a marriage isn't the stuff of public conversation. Usually, it's none of our business.

But every so often there's a marriage either so public or so infused into the culture that when it falls apart it becomes fair fodder for discussion.

And for Angelenos that's the case with the split up of Frank and Jamie McCourt, the landlords of Dodger Stadium.

What happens with the McCourts won't much matter in the greater world. It may not even merit a segment of Larry King.

Here in Los Angeles, though, there aren't many unions with as much potential to destabilize the civic order. It's because they own the Dodgers, arguably the city's most iconic civic property And, suddenly, a civic icon with an uncertain future.

On the eve of the opening game of the Dodgers' biggest series of the year, the team issued a statement confirming that the McCourts are separated.

Sounds plain enough, but it was a bombshell. The wording, and the timing, imply that probing questions were in the air.

The statement was an exercise in spin, a bid by the advisers to one or both McCourts, or the team, to get ahead of a story that would be, at the least, distracting.

The Dodgers went out and lost, 8 to 6, with the McCourts sitting in separate rows of the owners' box next to the dugout. Each with their lawyer beside them.

Even before the final out the lawyers were skirmishing in the media.

Frank McCourt's lawyer insisted that his client alone owns the Dodgers. Not so fast, said Jamie McCourt's lawyer. She's CEO and half-owner, and has no intention of going away.

And besides, said Jamie's lawyer – Frank's lawyer wasn't supposed to be talking to the press at all. They had a deal to keep the dirty laundry private.

But now, the war was on.

The McCourts have signed up some of the city's most prominent lawyers to manage the battles. Guys with client lists that include Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise and Ron Burkle.

So who are Frank and Jamie McCourt? And what, really, is at stake here?

They came to LA five years ago as rescuers, just when it looked as is no one would save the Dodgers from the clutches of Fox and News Corp. -– the owners who traded Mike Piazza.

Frank McCourt developed real estate in Boston and had tried to buy his hometown Red Sox. Jamie was a lawyer who, reportedly, had always wanted to buy a team.

The Dodgers deal was highly leveraged with debt. Frank was listed as owner, and became a player in local affairs, with aspirations to develop the Dodger Stadium land.

The charity Think Cure was created, and Frank recently took control of the L.A. Marathon.

Jamie played a prominent role in the team's operation and became CEO. She's regularly called one of the most powerful women in sports, and recently became a USC trustee.

Their box at the renovated Dodger Stadium became a place to be seen. Mayor Villaraigosa is a regular visitor.

Now, if the McCourts are heading for divorce –- as seems almost a given – the Dodgers very likely will have to be sold. Neither co-owner is believed to have the assets to buy out the other.

Selling a baseball club is notoriously complex and drawn out, and often also damaging to the team's fortunes.

In the Dodgers we're talking about one of the most valuable properties in all of sports, perhaps worth more than $700 million. Including prime land, in a city where the political power culture is built on the development of land.

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

Banner image: (L-R) Actor James Brolin, singer Barbra Streisand, Jamie McCourt and owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers Frank McCourt watch Game Four against the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs on October 13, 2008 at Dodger Stadium. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images