Could a $113 million divorce settlement be a mistake?

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A final settlement was reached last year in the very public divorce between ex-Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt. In the settlement Jamie would receive a guaranteed $113 million in exchange for relinquishing her ownership interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball team. The couple had owned the team since 2004. That settlement now has some wondering if it was a big mistake.

During the discovery phase of this high-asset divorce case, both sides hired professional experts to appraise the team’s value. The appraisals varied widely from $900 million to $1.3 billion, according to sources familiar with the case. Now, considering the appraisal values and last week’s sale of the team for $2.15 billion, one has wonder whether Ms. McCourt received a fair settlement.

When the divorce settlement was finalized last October, the stock market was down amid the ongoing drama and uncertainty with the European debt crisis so the sale price could have fluctuated according to market indicators at the time. Many legal experts and divorce attorneys not involved in the divorce settlement said it is not Ms. McCourt’s attorney who should be blamed, but the appraisers involved in evaluating the value of the franchise.

According to Mr. McCourt’s divorce attorney, nobody ever could have guessed the team would have been sold for $2 billion. You cannot blame someone for not seeing what could not have been foreseen, he said. How could Ms. McCourt’s attorneys have known what the team would have fetched on the open market? And perhaps Ms. McCourt is quite happy with her settlement and the fact she was able to avoid a long and expensive divorce process.

This case clearly demonstrates the many complexities involved in many high-asset divorce cases that include multiple properties or businesses along with corporate stock and high-value assets, such as art and other collectibles. If you are considering a divorce, it can be very beneficial to consult with an attorney well-versed in high-asset divorce cases to protect your non-marital assets, such as retirement accounts earned prior to your marriage, or other properties and assets purchased before you married.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Jamie McCourt’s Share: Baseball’s Worst Deal?,” Ashby Jones, March 28, 2012

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