World Series Meltdown: McCourts Strike Out

Frank and Jamie McCourt are a classic case study in how to abdicate leadership and undermine the reputation of a franchise by trashing their own.

They presented themselves to Los Angeles five years ago as a duo committed to building the Dodgers franchise into the greatest ballclub. Their timing stripping away their marriage’s veneer in mid-October while the Dodgers played the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship was irresponsible.

How they handled their separation and divorce filings last month put narcissism on home plate. The Dodgers lost the National League Championship, making more than their share of errors. But no one struck out in this World Series more often than the McCourts.

Granted, it is no easy challenge for any couple to reign in ego when a business and marital partnership collapse; however, it is what leaders operating in the public domain are expected to know how to do.

Allowing festering problems to erupt out of control was reckless and put their soap opera power struggle in the media, instead of with private mediators. Not to work behind closed doors with the best advisors money could buy on how to handle their separation and division of assets abdicated leadership that the Dodgers and fans have a right to expect.

Jamie McCourt, who never let anyone forget she was the highest ranking woman in baseball, violated a basic leadership principle by abusing her power if as alleged she had a romantic relationship with a subordinate. Starting the relationship with her driver before her separation from her husband was announced, and then letting him continue to work in the Dodger organization showed poor judgment and disrespect for the Dodger workplace.

Frank McCourt’s tactics revealing his wife’s affair, undermining her role as CEO, and making public their asset allocation business strategy while married, may be designed to strengthen his hand as sole owner, but it also has the take-no-prisoner price of escalating the public battle which disrupts and makes more vulnerable the franchise they are fighting over.

Filed petitions and motions, Marie Antoinette-like demands for perks and spousal support, rolled out legal artillery in response, all the ingredients of the war each is fighting for what they believe is his or hers alone. And the legacy from this will be what?

Leaders who don’t know how to lead lose the public’s trust. Millions of Dodgers fans want to know if Manager Joe Torre will be able to put the competitive team on the field that he wants. They want to know where the leader is who will devote the skills, passion, and financial resources to making the Dodgers the number one priority. That question has yet to be answered.

Gael O’Brien        November 4, 2009

The Week in Ethics


2 thoughts on “World Series Meltdown: McCourts Strike Out

  1. Jerry Garrett

    This is a case study of the pot calling the kettle black. The McCourts got rid of pitcher Derek Lowe because they questioned his morals after his marriage broke up, around questions of his involvement with a TV reporter who was covering the Dodgers.
    Arguably, this is much worse.
    The McCourts, who sold themselves to the Dodger “family” as family too, had a moral and ethical – if not fiduciary – duty to inform the public of a change in their personal partnership. Especially since it can’t help but impact the Dodgers. And for propriety’s sake, they should have been out in front of this, instead of behind it: We’ve broken up, each of us is free to socialize with other people; please respect our privacy as we go through a difficult process.
    How difficult should have that have been for a couple so concerned with self-image?

  2. Pingback: The Ethics of Being Wrong: Ghosn, Greenspan, and Dodger Owners « Gael O’Brien The Week in Ethics: Columns on Ethics, Leadership and Life

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