Marlins owner Jeffery Loria is part of a
broad investigation by the SEC into whether
their new stadium set to open in 2012 was
Since Bud Selig took over as commissioner of Major League Baseball some 20 years ago, baseball has gone through an incredible facelift in terms of stadium development. This, “Selig Reclamation Project” has seen 25 new or refurbished stadiums move from cookie-cutter cement edifice to palatial playgrounds where steakhouses, martini bars and playgrounds for the kids have nearly turned the game into a secondary attraction as the league looks to pull in fringe fans.
It’s worked. Attendance has soared to new heights as fans flock to see the new plaything in their city. Revenues have, as well. Since 1995 the league has gone from $1.4 billion in revenues to $7 billion in 2010 (see details), or a 400% increase. When accounting for inflation, the league still sees phenomenal growth at a 254% increase.
It’s been new stadium development that has largely driven it. The reason is an unfair system by which ignorant politicians have been bamboozled and blackmailed by owners and the league who have said that without new stadiums to garner competitive revenues, the team can’t compete. If funding – the lion’s share – isn’t provided by the public, the team will go elsewhere.
Until the new Marlins stadium being built and set to open next season in the Little Havana section of Miami was funded, those tracking the “cement beat” would tell you that the $660 million funding of the Nationals Park might have been the most lopsided toward taxpayers in the history of the game. But, at least with them, it was somewhat above board, if you want to call it that. The league owned the Expos and told any city that wanted to host them that a new stadium was part of the deal.
For the Marlins, it’s been the same dog and pony show that others, such as the Twins, have had: if we don’t get the stadium, we’ll relocate. I saw this first hand with the Marlins when David Samson arrived in Portland on a miserably wet winter day in 2001. Those that followed the doings of the Marlins to leverage politicians in South Florida into a new ballpark called it the “Marlins Relocation Tour.”
So, it should have been no surprise that politicians buckled when county and city officials approved approx. 80 percent of the overall $634 million bill for the new stadium. With interest and fees, the total cost when paid off will hit a staggering $2.4 billion in taxpayer dollars.
The Marlins said they were poor, and without the funding, they’d move. Politicians never asked to see financial documents from the club, even if Samson, and owner Jeffery Loria would have said no to the request.
They have been lying for years about “being poor.” For years, those that would listen have been hearing that the Marlins love living on welfare. They are not poor, in fact, they have been one of the league’s most profitable.
Now, karma has roosted on the Marlins doorstep as the Miami Herald is reporting that the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission has subpoenaed records from Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, the Marlins, as well as Commissioner Selig and former league president and COO, Bob DuPuy to conduct an investigation into whether the Marlins did have the capacity to pay for the stadium, or a larger percentage of it, and whether there was any “influence peddling to local politicians”, ergo, possible bribes in the form of political contributions, or otherwise from the Marlins to grease the skids on the deal. If bribes are involved, jail time is certainly a possibility for the politicians.
For baseball, this is unwelcome news the likes of which makes getting a lump of coal in your stocking looks like a Neiman Marcus gift card. SEC investigations are lengthy, and expensive.
As reported by the Herald:
The subpoenas focus heavily on the Marlins, requesting communications to and from team executives, documentation that might show the team’s ability to pay for or contribute to the financing of the stadium, and information on any meetings involving not only Loria and Selig, but also team President David Samson and former Major League Baseball president and chief operating officer Robert DuPuy. DuPuy was instrumental at the latter end of the hard-fought deal.
The subpoenas, signed by SEC senior counsel Drew D. Panahi, say: “We are trying to determine whether there have been any violations of the federal securities laws. The investigation and the subpoena do not mean that we have concluded that Miami-Dade County or anyone else has broken the law.”
The discovery phase could unearth information that would make leaked financial documents from 2008-09 seem like nothing. In those documents, the Marlins were shown to make a healthy profit, and on top of it, a shell corporation was actually funneling money back to the Marlins while showing it as a loss.
It seems to all be part and parcel for the Marlins. As one long-time baseball executive said to me, “No one really likes them that much.” That appears to be federal investigators, as well.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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