Investing big in coastal Dade County probably isn’t the best idea today… but Jeb! and Jeter are determined to be knighted as MLB owners anyway.
Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has reached an agreement in principle to sell the team to a group led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as well as New York Yankees scion and 14-time All Star Derek Jeter, pending Major League Baseball approval and, you know, getting the actual funding together.
The group fronted by the center-right’s first family’s favorite little brother and the soon-to-be hall of famer, will reportedly plunk down about $1.3 billion for the two-time World Champion Marlins, a team that has struggled in the standings as well as at the gate for more than a decade since their last title in 2003.
Albeit, unlike the Mets, at least the team has shed Bobby Bonilla from the books, so that’s a positive.
In theory, Jeb and Jeter would have that kind of cash clanging around in the center console of their F-150s, but much like the Magic Johnson Dodgers purchase or the Jeff Moorad Padres pickup, the super-famous-fronted franchise acquisitions only have enough star power to get the deal preliminary public sign-off and, let’s face it, Miami could use a new front man (besides Orange Jersey Guy) but the actual money comes from oftentimes fan-unfriendly silent partners.
In 2012, when the Magic Johnson group made Frank McCourt (the former parking lot king of South Boston) rich beyond his wildest imagination picking up the Dodgers for $2 billion after McCourt and his family used the team as their personal cash machine, the real money behind it was Mark Walter, chief executive officer of Guggenheim Partners, a Chicago-based financial services firm who would become the controlling owner. Guggenheim has about $260 billion in assets, which means the Dodgers to them are the literal bag of peanuts you buy along with your Dodger Dog.
That kind of funding doesn’t always materialize in these kind of deals, though.
Also in 2012, just down the 5 in San Diego, MLB super-agent Jeff Moorad stepped in to buy the Padres from John Moores, who was going through a nasty divorce and needed to be liquid.
The asking price: $530 million.
Friars faithful will recall the move tied up the Padres’ finances as Moorad was the guy who bought the most house the bank would allow and had no money to furnish the inside. Eventually, Ron Fowler replaced Moorad as the general partner and formed a group, including four heirs to the O’Malley family—owners of the Dodgers for five decades, to buy the club. MLB approved the $800 million sale on August 28, 2012.
Fowler is the first San Diego-based controlling partner since founding owner/convicted embezzler C. Arnholdt Smith. The result of the Padres keeping the financing relatively local and not investment bank/private equity firm-funded has been about a half decade of shipping off prospects, signing aging or troubled free agents and generally being and mired with a payroll under $75 million. Their pockets aren’t bottomless and big-money signings like that of Wil Myers this last offseason are few and far between.
What kind of money Jeter and Bush can marshal—Dodger or Padre—is an open question.
There is rampant speculation in South Beach that there will be a host of Miami-based or related investors forming a conga line (including faint whispers of LeBron) as the jock and the Jeb! do not have the money to front the sale. The MLB likes big names up front and big money in the back, but all of these investors would have to be vetted and approved by the league, and that takes time.
More than investment banker silent partners, MLB loves old, white money most …which may be why they’re choosing Bush even over New York-based Wayne Rothbaum, a fairly upstart investor in his late-40s who fronts Quogue Capital, LLC a “life-sciences investment firm” with a half-billion under its umbrella …along with giving the “no thanks” to a group fronted by Massachusetts businessman Tagg Romney (still a relatively spry 47) second-gen fleecer of viable companies for quick returns/son of Mitt. Bush is also attractive because he does not come attached with anyone in Miami who lists their occupation as “Club Owner” or “Promoter” on LinkedIn.
Current owner Loria said earlier this year he decided to sell because of his advancing age (76), sadness over the death of Jose Fernandez and unhappiness with fan unrest. The Manhattan-born, Yale-educated art dealer purchased the Marlins in 2002 as part of a three-team transaction authorized by then-MLB commissioner Bud Selig. Loria sold the Expos to “Expos Baseball LP,” a partnership of the other 29 major-league clubs, for $120 million — that became the Nationals. And he took over the Marlins, eventually opening Marlins Park, a $2.4 billion MacGuffin that the City of Miami paid for to keep the team from moving to San Antonio. The retail and dining spaces immediately surrounding the ballpark are mostly empty but at least it borders East Little Havana (try the Tostones Rellenos Picadillo at El Exquisito) neighborhood and less than a dozen blocks from the waterfront which scientists say will all be completely submerged by 2100 as the tip of the spear of the biggest real estate bust and mass relocation in human history.
…Meaning no matter who they get to support their group or how well the team does, the Jeter-Bush investment is destined to end up underwater.