The Frank McCourt Story…Or as we like to call it: Eleven easy steps to buying a major league baseball team, using it as your own personal piggy bank, drawing the ire of an entire adopted city, abandoning your marriage, making a billion dollars free-and-clear and retiring as a parking lot owner, just as you started.
By Andrew Pridgen
1) Team up with your wife and her family’s money and run a commercial real estate firm out of Boston. Purchase a 24-acre parcel of a derelict rail yard in South Boston and turn it into 2,000 parking lot spaces. Tout its eventual development as one that would open a re-energized corner of the city and bring millions of taxable revenue to a dead-end part of town. Make sure you tie it up in court so long that it never happens.
2) Attempt to buy a major league baseball team in your region (Red Sox) dangling your parking lot as a potential plot for a new ballpark to replace the greatest ballpark ever built. Fail miserably and be chastised by local sports columnists as a “parking lot attendant attempting to become an owner.”
3) Do what every other self-respecting failed East Coaster in search of a fresh start has done from Joseph Smith to Don Draper and move West. Preferably LA, where institutional memory dates back to just after your morning espresso.
4) Buy a team whose beloved family ownership (O’Malleys) had sold out to an evil Rupert Murdoch-run megalomedia conglomerate (Fox Entertainment Group supsidiary of News Corp). Since the media company only wanted to block Disney from taking over the entire town (they already had the Angels and the Mighty Ducks – and there was no football team for the Mouse to assume control) watch them make mistakes like getting rid of a beloved homegrown backstop in Mike Piazza and rewarding the game’s first eight-figure contract to a middling starter (Kevin Brown). After six years of playoff misses and an inflated pricetag of $430 million and no buyers (not even Disney) get ready to pounce.
5) Offer Fox $421 million. Take more than $70 million in loans back from the current owner, get a $125 million loan with your $8 million parking lot as collateral. Get a $50 million credit in the purchase price, borrow about $125 million and let the remaining $100 million just sort of go unaccounted for because, you know, what’s one pitcher’s salary between friends.
6) Because you a) have no money b) have no interest, or capital, to build a contender c) have no skin in the actual ownership of the team, use the franchise as your personal ATM and foray into the greater Los Angeles social circuit: Buy a bunch of new homes, put them in your wife’s name for an equal share between spouses in case of any kind of divorce down the road. Include in your purchases an 11,000-square-foot home across from the Playboy Mansion ($21 million), the next door property to tear down for $6.5 million, land in Cabo for $5 million, a $7.7 million lot in the going-bankrupt Yellowstone Club in Montana. Pick up a Lautner-designed home in Malibu from your ‘Friend’ Courtney Cox for $27 million as well as the adjacent bungalow for $20 million.
7) Decide you’d like to get that divorce and make it one of the most expensive in history ($30-plus million in attorney fees). Finally settle so that your wife gets $130 million to walk away and you take sole ownership of the ball club.
7 a) Throw in a nonprofit-to-hook-up-one-of-your-cronies scandal for good measure: In ’10 Jerry Brown, then playing the role of California’s Attorney General, uncovered the Dodgers’ Dream foundation chief executive Howard Sunkin was making $400k/year to make his own dreams come true. The courts eventually ordered all this be repaid. (McCourt himself even wrote a check back for $100k, or as he likes to call it, “lunch.”)
8) After six turbulent seasons of ownership, make sure major league baseball’s commissioner takes your team over because you’ve now spent so much on homes and hair appointments you’re taking loans from the team’s previous owner to cover payroll. File for Chapter 11 bankruptcy two months later (June, 2011) to cover your own assets and put the team up for sale after lots of legal back-and-forth with MLB.
9) A year after being taken over by the MLB, sell the team to the Guggenheim Partners, a New York- and Chicago-based privately held financial services firm with more than $190 billion in assets. Make sure they let Magic Johnson front the group so the $2 billion pricetag looks like it’s footed from local sources. Smile as you may have lost your wife, but you more than quadrupled the original “investment” of almost a half-billion dollars of money that wasn’t yours. In a separate deal, sell the land surrounding the stadium, which was included in your original purchase, for $150 million while maintaining some economic stake in the property. Also, create a third entity that you own to run the parking lots at the stadium, because that’s the business you know after all, and rent them back to the new ownership group for $14 million.
10) As your former team’s payroll skyrockets to a quarter-billion dollars and they reach the playoffs for the first time in a half-decade, become a philanthropist: Start by donating to a cause that probably doesn’t need your help in the first place; how ’bout $100 million to Georgetown University for a namesake school of public policy (no that’s public, not parking policy). During your time as owner of the major league team, buy the Los Angeles Marathon and hold on to that for additional re-occurring revenue in the name of a healthy activity.
11) Look on as your ex-wife buys and escapes to $11 million Napa estate knowing you made away with more than $1 billion free and clear and still get to sit next to Magic and your bored-looking-but-hot new girlfriend at games. …Your very own Hollywood ending.
Image source: LATimes blogs