If Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria goes against his word and sells the ballclub, the sooner the better for Miami-Dade County taxpayers.
That’s because the 2009 contract negotiated among the Marlins, the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County says the percentage of profits the governments would pocket if the team is sold is greatly reduced — and grinds to zero — over the next two years.
Profit-sharing was one of the last issues negotiated in what was widely viewed as a lopsided deal in favor of the Marlins. It was so contentious it delayed a final vote on building the ballpark by a month. The parties finally agreed that if Loria was to sell the team during the first year of the contract, starting in 2009, the county and city would split 18 percent of any profits.
If Loria was to sell the team in 2013, the city and county would split 7.5 percent of any profits. In 2014 that number lowers to 5 percent, and starting in 2015, all profits go only to the Marlins.
Calculating exactly what that means to each stakeholder is tough because the Marlins could claim all types of costs that would lower their profit margin. But factoring the $158 million Loria paid for the team in 2002, and a Forbes Magazine estimate of the ballclub’s value last month at $450 million, if the team were to sell in 2013, the governments would split about $22 million.
Calls Wednesday to team President David Samson and spokesman P.J. Loyello were not returned. But in media interviews, the Marlins insisted they are not selling or moving the ballclub.
On Tuesday, only four months after trading former franchise cornerstone Hanley Ramirez and his remaining $40 million contract to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and dumping pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Heath Bell, the Marlins sent most of the remaining popular names on the team packing to Toronto. The series of trades will reduce payroll by more than $200 million, but Tuesday’s trades still haven’t received the required endorsement of Major League Baseball.
The purge, which sparked immediate outrage, did not come as a surprise to stadium opponents. Loria suffered the indignity this year of having the lowest attendance of any ballclub in a new stadium in more than three decades.
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez — who won his post in part by fighting the ballpark deal — speculated Wednesday that Loria could avoid splitting any profits by selling 49 percent of the team now, and the remainder in 2015 when the profit-sharing ends.
“They stopped one trade short — they need to trade owners,” Gimenez said. “I’ve never cared for this ownership group, and look, they’ve done it again. I don’t think they’ve got any credibility left.”
Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said the public has lost confidence in the Marlins ownership.
“I think he’s [Loria] set up the team for a sale that would maximize his profits,” Sarnoff said. “I think everyone is looking for him to sell, and I think it’s a good day when he does.”
In an interview Wednesday with Miami Herald columnist Dan Lebatard on 790AM The Ticket, Samson wouldn’t say if the team plans to increase payroll from what is now a $16 million roster, and said the Marlins would be in Miami for “generations.’’
Neil deMause, who chronicled a one-sided stadium deal in his book Field of Schemes, said Loria may have simply decided there was more benefit to having a low payroll than chancing a high one and not winning.