Friday, September 2, 2011

Another Divorce, Another Team

It was announced today that Arthur Blank and his wife of 16 years are separating.  Arthur Blank is the owner of the Atlanta Falcons.    He married his current wife in 1995 and bought the team in 2002.    The press release said the separation will have no effect on his business enterprises.  

The last time this happened was the McCourt divorce which engulfed the Dodgers.   The mess got so bad that MLB had to take over running the team.

Most NFL teams are owned by corporations, although NFL Bylaws require one person to have majority ownership.   The NFL wants one person making the decisions.   That person might then incorporate in order to protect assets or for other business reasons.   So, it sounds like everything would be protected in the event of a divorce.

I reached out to a friend who is a Georgia lawyer to see if GA is a community property state (He's also a Falcons fan).   No word yet from him on the news.

If Georgia is a community property state and he bought the team with marital funds, even if he incorporated, she has rights to the team.   (Or some share of it).   Here's why.   There might be a corporation that owns the Falcons.   But corporations issues shares.   If his shares have any value, they are a marital asset.   Which means they can be divided in the event of a divorce.   If GA is a marital property state, same thing essentially.

Now, it is possible that Blank bought the team with separate funds earned before the parties married.   If the source of the funds for buying the team can be traced to separate -- not marital -- property, then the team is free and clear.

Also, it is possible that unlike Jami McCourt, Mrs. Blank wants nothing to do with running a team.   She may relinquish her interest in the team in exchange for some other financial consideration.   Happens all the time in divorces.   Okay, usually not sports teams, but there is always something that someone really wants.

That is why practicing family law is so much fun.   You can get creative.   You can negotiate and think outside the box to reach a solution agreeable to all parties.    You don't have to go to court and pursue a scorched earth strategy.   In fact, court is not a good place to get what you want.   The court is bound by statutes, precedent and other considerations.   There may limits to what a court can grant.   But, a really good family law attorney can reach an agreement that a court could not grant, but is still enforceable and acceptable.

Here's hoping the Blanks go the peaceful route not the McCourt route.    Football just survived one nasty court fight, it does not need another one.

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