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New Marlins Legal Strategy: We’re Really a British Virgin Islands Team

Miami MarlinsThe Miami Marlins are in the midst of a legal battle with Miami and Miami-Dade County over profits after the 2017 team sale, and they unveiled a novel strategy: because the team’s ownership is based in the British Virgin Islands, a federal arbitrator and not a U.S. judge should hear the arguments.

Probably not the best PR argument from the Marlins ownership, which had a rough offseason and don’t appear to be winning fans over so far in 2018. (Indeed, after seven home games, the Marlins are dead last in MLB attendance with 14,443 fans per game.) The legal dispute centers on the agreement between Jeffrey Loria, the team’s former owner, and Miami and Miami-Dade County over profits realized after a sale of the team as part of the financing deal for Marlins Park and the accompanying parking garages. Miami and Miami-Dade County say there were profits after Loria sold the team for $1.2 billion; Loria says he actually experienced a loss of $140 million on the deal. Hence the battle.

The interesting twist to the battle is that the Marlins’ new investors includes a British Virgin Islands corporation. That makes the dispute between the team and Miami and Miami-Dade County an international matter to be decided by a federal arbitrator and not a county judge. From the Miami Herald:

Lawyers representing the Marlins told a federal judge that at least one corporation that owns part of Marlins Teamco — the company Jeter and majority owner Bruce Sherman formed last year to buy the franchise — is based in the Caribbean. As a result, team lawyers argued, the dispute with Miami-Dade should be governed by jurisdictional rules that apply to international disputes.

The legal argument drew a sharp brush back from county lawyers, who mocked the “Jeter Marlins” for invoking treaty law in a lawsuit involving a Miami baseball team and the municipal government that owns Marlins Park.

“This is the most local of disputes, involving a locally-negotiated contract made between local parties under local law and requiring local performance,” county lawyers wrote in arguing to keeping the lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

For the record: we are talking about a British Virgin Islands called Abernue Ltd, which owns a piece of Marlins Holdings LLC, which owns all of Marlins Funding, which is the sole owner of Marlins Teamco, the corporation set up by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter when they bought the Marlins.

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