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Divorce and baseball ownership raises financial concerns

The economic status of a baseball team during the owner's divorce has been a sore point of contention in some cases in recent years. Luckily, the issue has not come up in Georgia, but the latest incident is the current divorce case of the Astros owner Jim Crane and his wife, Franci Neely. Although news reports have raised concerns that an announced settlement will impact the team, Crane and team spokespersons have adamantly denied any connection between the two.

In this case, the denials are likely true in that Neely appears to have no interest at all in the team. The reason for the rather obsessive questions on this issue may stem back to the 2011 contentious divorce proceedings between another owner of a major league team and his wife. In that matter, the wife was actually the CEO of the baseball team, causing complications that extended into various aspects of team finance and even resulted in a bankruptcy battle.

That nearly surreal conflict involved the Los Angeles Dodgers, and since that time, major league baseball has reportedly established controls and regulations to prevent a repeat. Another important issue to look into in high net worth divorces is whether the non-owning spouse has signed a prenuptial agreement. A premarital contract restricting the spouse from gaining an interest in a baseball team would generally be honored and enforced.

It is reported that Crane and Neely have entered into a property settlement agreement in which Crane will pay Neely the sum of $30 million. The parties were married for over 20 years. It was reported that Neely expressed that the parties were trying to end the relationship in a respectful and amicable manner. A perusal of court documents by reporters apparently supported the contention that the divorce and the settlement did not in any way implicate the team in any way. The same principles would apply to similar circumstances in a Georgia divorce.

Source: blog.chron.com, "Jim Crane's divorce finalized; financial settlement said to have 'no effect' on Astros", Evan Drellich, Feb. 13, 2015

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