Chairman, Los Angeles Dodgers, McCourt Group; manages finances for baseball team, real estate holdings and other assets
She: President, Los Angeles Dodgers; runs day-to-day operations of baseball team, serves on six non-profit boards
Years Married: 29
In their previous life, Frank and Jamie McCourt had a low profile as Boston parking lot tycoons. But when they bought the Dodgers five years ago, they instantly became a high-profile Los Angeles power couple and steadily rose to leadership roles in the city.
The McCourts have re-energized the Dodgers, with the team making the playoffs three times under their ownership. Attendance has increased along with the team's winning ways. Last spring, the McCourts unveiled a $500 million plan to transform Dodger Stadium into a year-round retail and entertainment destination.
Beyond that, the McCourts have gotten involved in the community by taking seats on some of the most prominent boards in the area. Also last year, they became the lead investors in the purchase of the Los Angeles Marathon.
That's why the Business Journal has named the McCourts L.A.'s Power Couple of the Year. (The other Power Couples, Richard and Daphna Ziman, and Stewart and Lynda Resnick, are profiled on page 23.)
Before the McCourts came to Los Angeles, they didn't have a particularly high profile in Boston. Frank's brother was better known for running the family's construction business. Jamie was No. 60 on a list of that city's most powerful women. The couple's main income came from a 24-acre parking lot, causing rival developers to call Frank "the parking lot king."
Frank had tried unsuccessfully to buy the Boston Red Sox, Anaheim Angels and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before he bought the Dodgers from News Corp. in a $430 million deal. Ownership of the team thrust him into a high-profile role in one of the nation's top markets.
Jamie said it took a lot of outreach and the steadily improving fortunes of the Dodgers to establish their reputation in the community.
"It wasn't easy in the beginning," recalled Jamie. "The media gave us a cold reception."
A Los Angeles Times columnist called her "the Screaming Meanie" because of what he thought was her shrill demeanor. Frank was denigrated as the "parking lot attendant" who bought the Dodgers. Complainers said they weren't real Dodgers fans and that they wouldn't have enough cash to run the team because they bought it by leveraging real estate.
"It took a lot of work to overcome that," Jamie said.
Mall developer Rick Caruso, a Los Angeles native, sympathizes.
"It had to be difficult coming into a new town and buying an asset like the Dodgers, which everyone has an opinion about. I think they way they've conducted themselves has worked in their favor. They are very well-regarded. I consider them a local couple."
The McCourts met as freshmen at Georgetown University when they were both 17. They got married in 1979. Jamie earned a bachelor's degree in French at Georgetown, then a law degree from the University of Maryland and an M.B.A. from MIT's Sloan School of Management. Frank has an economics degree from Georgetown.
Frank bought 24 acres in Boston from the bankrupt Penn Central railroad in the late 1970s and turned it into parking lots that made millions. He leveraged the property to fund the purchase of the Dodgers, and two years later turned the property over to News Corp. in exchange for canceling the debt.
The McCourts have divided their roles according to their dispositions: Jamie is the quintessential people person, while Frank is the reserved, behind-the-scenes numbers guy. They carry that over in their respective positions as president and chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
"I love day-to-day things, while my husband would be happy to do just big-picture things," said Jamie. "We have complementary skill sets both at home and in business."
Frank started the McCourt Group as a real estate development firm in 1977. Through his company, Frank participated in some of Boston's largest construction projects including the waterfront revitalization project, Logan Airport and the "Big Dig" freeway tunnel.
In 2004, the McCourts bought the Dodgers team and moved to the Beverly Hills area. The Business Journal estimated their wealth at $1.21 billion in May, which put them at No. 33 on the annual list of Wealthiest Angelenos.
Even though they work for the same company, they spend little time together at the office and often don't know each other's daily schedule. On a typical day, Frank leaves early for work while Jamie swims and gets their youngest son the only one still at home off to school. Then she begins a day filled with meetings and appointments, some at Dodger Stadium, and others at civic and philanthropic organizations across Los Angeles.
"They have jumped into the community as fast as any couple I've ever seen," said Gary Toebben, president of the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, where Jamie has a seat on the board. "Their personalities make a great team that allows them to engage with the community while running a profitable business."
In addition to her leadership role in the chamber, Jaime serves on the executive committee at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and the boards of the Los Angeles Business Council; LA Inc., the Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Los Angeles Sports Council; and the Dodgers Dream Foundation, the team's charity vehicle. In all, she has a seat on six boards and three committees.
They both have hands-on roles in Dodgers management. But apart from that, Jamie devotes herself to civic and community involvement, while Frank takes care of the couple's real estate and other business interests. They include the modernization of Dodger Stadium; the development of nearby real estate in Chavez Ravine; and the L.A. Marathon, which they purchased in September.
The McCourts' management of the race is evidence of their attention to community. After requests by church leaders to stop running the marathon on Sundays, Frank moved it to Memorial Day.
"Frank McCourt has proven himself a great steward of one of our city's crown jewels the Dodgers and I have great expectations for what he will do with the L.A. Marathon," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement when Frank helped take over the race.
While the McCourts expand their business and civic interests, Frank emphasized that the Dodgers have become a major shared priority in the marriage, and he likes working with his spouse at the same organization.
"No question, baseball is something we have in common a true family affair," Frank said. "You don't go home and say, 'Honey, what did you do all day?' You stay current about each other's lives in real time. That's a great advantage because the challenge busy people have is to stay connected."
In the last year, the McCourts have stood out on several fronts. They coordinated a months-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles from Brooklyn. As part of the festivities, the Dodgers played an exhibition match at the Los Angeles Coliseum against the Red Sox, drawing 115,000 fans. In March, they took the team for the first-ever professional exhibition baseball games played in China.
In the McCourt era, the Dodgers have made the league playoffs three times: 2004, 2006 and 2008. Previously, the team hadn't made the playoffs since 1998. Last year was a high point; the Dodgers won their first playoff series since 1988, defeating the Chicago Cubs before being beaten in the next round by the Philadelphia Phillies.
"To come within three wins of the World Series is something to be proud of," Jamie said. "Of course, we want to win the whole thing and bring championship baseball to Los Angeles."
In April, the McCourts unveiled plans to redevelop the Dodger Stadium site, adding retail and restaurants in the parking grounds. Estimated cost: $500 million. The goal is to make the ballpark a year-round destination, not just for tourists but for Angelenos who want to stop by for shopping and dining options at the landmark location. Also, they want fans to come earlier and stay later and spend more.
As the highest-ranking woman in Major League Baseball, Jamie has used the Dodgers as a platform to communicate a female-friendly vision of the sport. She has launched DodgersWIN (Women's Initiatives Network), a group that teaches women to appreciate the sport through luncheons, rules instruction, meet-and-greets with the players and stadium tours. She hopes to get more women involved off the field by working in the front office of teams.
"She brings a woman's perspective to what we have in common, which is baseball," said Frank. "So we benefit from well-rounded discussions in all our decisions."
On a larger level, Jamie sees the baseball stadium as a place where families can gather, in part because the ticket prices allow groups and people from all strata of society to attend.
"I'm convinced that baseball is tied to family values," she said. "It's classic Americana, and it's the national pastime for a reason. We are focused on strengthening our ties to families."
It still isn't smooth sailing all the time, though.
Jamie was stung by a barrage of criticism when she asked if Dodgers fans would rather the team pay $30 million for a free-agent player or use some of that money for building youth baseball fields around Southern California. Sports columnists and bloggers were incensed at the implication that they had to choose between a good team and a good cause.
Jamie later said she was trying to express that paying big bucks for players could be seen as insensitive if youth fields went unbuilt.
"The difference is so stark, so vivid," she was quoted as saying. "In these tough times, with so many people losing their jobs, isn't it fair, philosophically, to at least ask about the dollars?"
Power family dynamics
Within their marriage, the McCourts have a simple method for resolving conflicts: They keep arguing until one side gives up.
For example, Frank once wanted to remove the players' names from Dodgers uniforms. "It was incomprehensible to me, but he was a baseball purist," Jamie recalled. "I just kept finding reasons to keep the names until I drove him crazy." He relented.
The McCourts seem to have mastered the division of labor between them, but the division of home and business gets fuzzy. "There is no division that's the problem," said Jamie. "It's hard to say, 'Now were not going to talk about work.' Even when you go out in public, everybody else wants to talk about it, because it's baseball."
However, they both agree that their work-home marriage arrangement illustrates one path to a happy life.
"If you really pay attention to your skill sets, you can live the motto that one plus one makes three," said Jamie. "You can make something happen that's special."
Frank agrees. Working daily with a spouse "is not for everyone, but when it works, it's magic," he said. "You know you have a true life partner."
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