I love baseball. Loved it since I was a child. Growing up one of my heroes was Mickey Mantle. For those who don’t know the name, you just don’t know baseball.
One of my great disappointments was not seeing José Fernández pitch in person — live at the stadium. When it was built, with our misused tax dollars, I promised not to visit the building while owner Jeffrey Loria (in photo at top) and his stepson, David Samson, had anything to do with the Miami Marlins. I’ve kept my promise.
The news now is that Loria will soon sell the club. The buyers, according to the Miami Herald, is a team of investors put together by former Florida governor Jeb Bush and retired Yankees great, soon to be in the Hall of Fame, Derek Jeter. The Bush-Jeter group will pay $1.3 billion for the team, say the Herald sources.
It’s a sign of the times. A moment when millions don’t mean what they used to. In today’s world, the millionaires are overshadowed by the billionaires. And both, too often, laugh off the plight of the working stiff making less than 10 dollars and hour, while slaving sometimes with two and three jobs, just to pay the rent and put food on the table.
Let me make this long story short. Loria used to own a team called the Montreal Expos. He sold it to a legal entity called “Expos Baseball LP,” which was really a partnership of the other 29 major-league baseball teams, for $120 million. I won’t go into the details, but Major League Baseball (MLB) wanted to bring a team to Washington, D.C., and help out a former owner of the Marlins, a billionaire by the name of John Henry, to get out of Miami and buy the Boston Red Sox.
It’s convoluted, I know…
So Loria ended up a richer man with $120 million. Then MLB turned around and gave him a $38.5 million no-interest loan so he could purchase the Marlins from Henry for $158.5 million. Everything turned out nice and tidy. Henry went to Boston. MLB got its franchise in Washington. And Miami got a wheeler-dealer art merchant by the name of Loria whose ethics are questionable.
Loria’s next step, and that’s where the stepson comes in, was to convince Miami-Dade politicians that we needed a new baseball stadium. Folks, nobody tells you this part, but it was all part of the deal Loria made with MLB. The Marlins franchise was not worth much back then, but with a new stadium… the value of the team would increase, and Loria and MLB would profit.
Here’s the kicker, though. Loria and MLB wanted Miami to pay for the stadium. That’s right. Multi-millionaires and billionaires wanted Miami taxpayers (yep, the same working stiffs I just mentioned, many who earn less than $10 an hour) to pay for it.
Can you see a pattern here? If you don’t, turn your eyes to the White House and see what our president is trying to do…
It was Samson’s job to get this done. How did he do it? We may never know the full story. But for some unexplained reason he convinced enough Miami-Dade county commissioners and the mayor to issue bonds to pay for the stadium. At the time, if I recall correctly, about $550 million. Paid over time and with interest, we’re into the stadium for around $2 billion — money that is being paid with OUR tax dollars.
Interestingly, the deal allowed Loria to retain all earnings from the stadium and even the parking concessions — all for a yearly, minimal rent. And when the deal was worked out with the mayor and commissioners, Loria refused to turn over financial statements, which amazingly enough the mayor and commissioners allowed. (Remind you of anyone? Again, look north to the White House.)
Samson later made a mockery of the whole thing by boasting on his resume for a TV show that he got “the local government in South Florida to contribute over $350 million to a new baseball park during the recession.” Funny isn’t it. And the rich get richer with the help of politicians, many of whose integrity is questionable. It’s either that or they are really, really stupid! (I know of at least one who approved the deal who falls into both categories.)
Fifteen years, that’s how long Loria has owned the Marlins. The wheeler and dealer will soon leave Miami having made 1000 percent on his initial investment that basically cost him nothing. Yes, the county will receive compensation. But even that is questionable.
A Herald report stated that “county officials think the 2009 deal requires the Marlins to pay Miami-Dade an unknown amount if a sale takes place this year. But the formula in the original agreement hinges on how much value the team has gained since the park opened, and the county’s chief financial officer, Ed Marquez, said it will take significant number-crunching and back-and-forth with the team to determine the payout. Either way, Loria is expected to depart with more than $1.2 billion.”
The key words in the aforementioned quote are “unknown amount” and “county officials think.” In a deal this large you’d think they’d know, wouldn’t you?
Like I said at the beginning, it’s a sign of the times. The rich get richer while exploiting those with the least.
Well, at least there’s good news. After this summer we may never have to deal with Loria or Samson again. Now… about those county officials that allowed this to happen…