It’s no secret that Jeffrey Loria has been working to sell the Miami Marlins, and reports today indicate that a $1.6-billion sale to a New York City real-estate investor may be in the works.
Forbes is reporting that Loria has a handshake deal to sell the club, which has been on the market since last year. He bought the Marlins from John Henry for $158 million in 2002, after selling his ownership in the Montreal Expos to Major League Baseball. Since then he’s received public funding for a new ballpark and plenty of MLB profit sharing. A price of $1.6 billion, even if he suffered year with losses, would be a very nice return on his original investment. From Forbes:
My sources would not say who the $1.6 billion handshake agreement was with other than he is a real estate developer based in New York City. The problem, according to these sources, is the potential buyer is not liquid, meaning he does not have the cash to buy the Marlins because his net worth is tied up in real estate. Thus, for the real estate developer to purchase the Marlins would likely require more debt than MLB would be comfortable with.
Guggenheim Baseball Management also used a lot of debt to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion in 2012 from Frank McCourt. But Guggenheim had two huge advantages that a new owner of the Marlins likely would not have: hundreds of millions of dollars in hedge fund and insurance company money and a $6 billion bounty from a new cable television deal.
In contrast, the Marlins get a pittance from Fox Sports Florida in a deal than runs through 2020. A tripling in the value of their television deal would bring the Marlins only about $60 million a year, just one-fourth of the Dodgers annual average haul.
Bud Selig was not exactly the most diligent in enforcing MLB’s debt rules; the Ricketts and Cubs were also once in violation of these same debt rules in 2011, as were eight other teams (including the then-Florida Marlins, and the Dodgers under Frank McCourt’s ownership). It will be interesting to see how the new sheriff in town, Rob Manfred, reacts if he’s presented with a proposal for a Marlins sale involving lots of debt.
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