Frank McCourt came to Los Angeles when he purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004. The next decade saw him sell the team under pressure and endure a very public divorce. Now, at 61, he’s refocused. His McCourt Global has 50 employees in Beverly Hills and its New York headquarters, overseeing real estate projects in New York; Miami; and Austin, Texas. It also has two sports properties: the Los Angeles Marathon and Global Champions Tour, an international horse-jumping competition. He retains a stake in the parking lots around Dodger Stadium. In town for the marathon March 15, McCourt sat down with the Business Journal at his Beverly Hills office to discuss his current investments, why he’s become closer business partners with Guggenheim Partners and how he’s regarded in Los Angeles.
Question: How much time do you spend in Los Angeles these days?
Answer: I spend about one week out of every five or so. It depends on the time of year: a little bit more with the marathon, a little bit less some other times.
What’s going on with the Chavez Ravine site?
That’s not something we’re spending a tremendous amount of time on right now. But at some point in the future, for sure. I think that Guggenheim has some ideas in terms of what they’d like to develop by Dodger Stadium, so we’ll be having conversations with them in the future.
What’s been discussed so far?
We’re in a very preliminary phase. There’s a lot swirling around regarding the NFL and all that, so I think we’ll see what plays out in various locations and then we’ll see what they want to do.
Do you think it’s still an alternative site for a National Football League venue?
I think it’s an alternative. There’s a lot happening, obviously, in other locations around town. I think that Chavez Ravine has always been a preferred location for the NFL. But there’s a big difference between something being a preferred location and it actually happening.
What would be your preference for what happens?
I don’t have one at the moment. I just think that over time I have a high level of confidence that something spectacular will happen at the right time in the future.
Did you have any entitlements done on that land for retail or a hotel or other projects that still exist?
We had announced plans for an expansion of Dodger Stadium and retail beyond the outfield. Other than those approvals, many of which the Guggenheim folks have taken advantage of and built out, we had nothing beyond that.
Would you ever consider owning another sports team?
I vacillate on that, to be honest with you. I love sports. My four boys love sports. A lot of people that work for the company love sports. Many of them, we’ve been together a long time, through the whole Dodger experience and even before. I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m not actively thinking about it or pursuing.
There was a lot of negative press surrounding the sale of the Dodgers. Did that affect any of your business dealings going forward?
If anything, it was just the opposite. People were very impressed with the outcome and thought it was a fantastic result.
What is it like when you go out here now? Are people gracious when they see you?
The people I interact with are very nice and respectful. My personal experience is that I’m very comfortable in L.A. People know what I went through personally was not easy and to do it publicly was horrible. The team is in the hands of really good owners. That was important to me in the end and life goes on. We’ve hit the reset button. We’re doing bigger and better things.
Do you still consider yourself a Dodgers fan?
What are your thoughts on the current owners and their television deal?
It would be rude for me to comment on their business. People forget that when we bought the Dodgers, not all of the games were televised. Where I grew up, every game was available. In 2004, it was standard operating procedure that all games weren’t televised, but we thought it was a good thing for the community and for the revenue of the team. Now, broadcast is such a significant part of baseball that consumers demand to see each and every game and broadcast issues have most certainly come a long way in the past decade. These are complicated times, but the owners are doing a great job overall.
You are partners with the current owners of the Dodgers in real estate deals you have going on around the country. How did that work out?
They are a very significant partner and large investor in our global real estate platform. We’re the managing partner. I had not worked with them before. I got to know them extremely well during the bidding process. They are great business people, very ambitious. On a personal level, we built a great rapport. They were interested independent of the Dodgers in what we were doing in real estate. My introduction was through the bidding process, but that’s generally how you get to know people.
What was the appeal of the L.A. Marathon to you?
What we saw was the ability with the proper vision and capital base to really turn the Los Angeles Marathon into a world-class event. I think it was underutilized, underappreciated and perhaps undermanaged. And now, the stadium-to-sea course has definitely brought a lot of energy and runners to the event. We just were awarded the Olympic Trials and that’s a real sign of the progress that we’ve made.
Is the marathon itself profitable?
It’s basically a break-even type of proposition. We’ve invested a lot of money in the marathon to get it to that point, but it’s really now a very solid asset. It really has an impact on this community. From here, we’ll grow the race and get it to the next level, but I think the fundamentals are all in place now.
Are you eyeing any other investments in Los Angeles?
Yeah, we like Los Angeles as a market a lot. There’s a reason we not only kept this office open but we’ve expanded it. We’re very active in this marketplace.
What specifically are you looking at?
We have a fairly significant capital operation that we’ll definitely be expanding in this area, as well as the real estate. The projects we’ve started up are all very sizable, billion-dollar-plus projects. We’ll be doing more here.
Do you feel like you missed opportunities here, like the Barlow Hospital redevelopment?
I don’t really think of the business in that fashion. If you did, you’d probably go crazy. I come from a construction family, and we bid projects virtually every day of the week. You actually lose more than you win. It’s sort of like a baseball player. You strike out or you get out more than you get on base. It’s not like we ignore the results, but we don’t dwell on the past. We move on.
What are your philanthropic priorities for Los Angeles in in the next several years?
We want to bring the Future Project here. It’s a rapidly growing non-profit based in New York focused on education reform. They place highly trained individuals in high schools in impoverished areas. The kids connect their ambitions with the curriculum. They are in seven cities. I’d like by 2016 to see them in L.A. and expand throughout the big school systems in the United States.