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The Los Angeles Dodgers: A Lesson in Complex Property Distribution

To understand the issue of complex property distribution, consider the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2011 season. In that season, the franchise failed to make the playoffs and saw home game attendance dip to miserable lows. At times, entire sections of Dodger stadium sat empty, despite the team boasting an all-star roster. While the playing ability and game attendance of the Dodgers suffered in 2011, the most painful moments of the season took place far from any baseball stadium. The franchise was torn apart in the courtroom and in the press by the divorce trial of Frank and Jamie McCourt, the owners of the team. While Frank McCourt had purchased the team using his own business resources, both he and Jamie owned the team as community property because according to California law any property acquired during the marriage is the property of both spouses. Further, a pre-marital agreement was also in place that added ultimately added to the drama and controversy. This shared ownership was never an issue while the McCourt’s were happily married.

As they prepared to divorce, however, both spouses fought for individual control of the team. Their struggle illustrates the issue of complex property distribution. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a billion-dollar property, composed of many parts, including television rights, a physical stadium, merchandise, a parking lot, and baseball players. As a result, the Dodgers franchise cannot simply be cut in half and distributed equally. Instead, a judge must try to determine the method and means of dividing up this asset. Not every divorce involves a property as complex as the Dodgers baseball team, but legal guidance may still be necessary for help with properties that cannot easily be divided.