In what Forbes has touted as a “handshake agreement” it appears likely that Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria may be making an offseason departure from the team. The deal is estimated to be worth $1.6 billion, which would be an enormous increase for Loria, who bought the team in 2002 for $158.5 million. For the next fifteen years, Loria would shape the Florida Marlins into the Miami Marlins, and turn Marlins park into a nightmarish vision like something right out of Bart Simpson’s nightmares. Can’t sleep, fountain will eat me.
Marlins fans have been vocal of their distaste for Loria all along, questioning his loyalty to the team when he conducted a 12-player deal with Toronto in 2012. Loria cited poor fan turn out and the astronomical cost of the new Marlins stadiums as reasons leading him to make stark changes to the team. Fans saw it as a slap in the face to promises he’d made to build Miami a winning franchise.
Loria has been the bad boyfriend of the Marlins too long. He’s the guy who you break up with but he stays on your couch for a year afterwards, eating all your food and promising things will change, meanwhile he’s busy listing all your electronics on Craigslist when you ask him to pay rent. He may be the most detested owner in all of professional sports.
Fans toasting the sale should put a grain of salt on the rim of their margarita glasses, though. A “handshake agreement” is by no means a done deal. An interested party must be approved by the MLB before the deal can continue, meaning there’s a lot more to it than just "Hello sirs, I would like to purchase this batting fish squad, please."
Consider the 2012 sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Frank McCourt, a reviled figure in his own right, thanks to a contentious “custody” battle over the team, sold the Dodgers to the Guggenheim group for a staggering $2 billion. No other sports franchise sale had used the b-word before. The closest the MLB had come was the 2009 $700 million sale of the Cubs. This was uncharted territory. A huge part of the team’s value had to do with television broadcasting rights, and the Guggenheim group ended up looking like the smart buyers at the end of the day, in spite of the mammoth payout to get the team.
But it wasn’t an easy process. They were not, by any means, the first party to show interest in taking the suffering franchise off McCourt’s hands, and a few would-be owners were rejected before the Guggenheim group was finally given the green light.
The MLB will not approve a buyer if they feel there is a substantial financial risk involved. In the case of the Marlins, this risk might prove to be too much. The rumored party who wants to buy the team is an unnamed New York City-based real estate developer. According to Forbes, “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.”
This possible reality check isn’t enough to dampen the spirits of Marlins fans, however. The team hasn’t had a quality season since 2009, and for a club who won a World Series in their first 6 years as a franchise, that’s a hard pill to swallow. Any glimmer of hope that things will change and the dark Loria era is drawing to a close is enough to bring a smile to most Marlins fans’ faces.
As for Loria himself—a former art dealer—perhaps he can use some of his new windfall to buy himself a nice present. He could buy Jackson Pollock’s 17A seven times over and still have enough money leftover for a nice Van Gogh or two. He’ll need something to look at once he no longer has the outfield sculpture to gaze upon every day.
And if you were considering investing in a baseball team, the Dodgers are putting up a small stake of their empire up for bid, so start saving your pennies. The Cubs have made similar deals in the past and used the revenue for stadium upgrades.