Put Dolphins to the ‘Shark Tank’ test

Based on a Japanese reality show, Shark Tank asks five successful businessmen and women to judge budding entrepreneurs to determine whether to invest in their ideas. They ask pointed questions and determine if they can make money. They aren’t simply going to hand over money.

Traditionally, in private-sector transactions when a company is seeking revenue to expand business operations and to increase the value of the company, they seek a loan or investors and are forced to give up equity, stocks, or shares in exchange for the risk associated with the investment. Under a loan, some type of collateral secures the monies with a return on investment through interest charged.

If we, as a community, are willing to support and invest in privately held professional sports franchises we should, in exchange for our investment, require our policy makers to treat the transaction as a private-sector equity transaction — no more, no less.

While the return on investment may be measured by our selection as the 50th-anniversary location of the Super Bowl, future sporting events and the economic stimulus, we are still entitled to profit from the investment we made.

None of the Sharks would ever give a company funds and not expect to secure the risk through stock as well as expect a significant return on their investment. This is how the Sharks become rich — taking risks and receiving rewards associated with such risks and subsequent successes.

Why don’t we ask our elected state and local officials to become more “shark-like” and treat the officials from the Miami Dolphins as one of the presenters on an episode of the program? We should hold our own version of Shark Tank with successful business executives and see what they would do if this were their money. At the conclusion, I am sure there will be some lessons that we can use to model public policy.

In the past, when we have “invested” as a community, we have been relegated to being landowners with the potential for a piece of the profits only after a myriad of financial hurdles have been encountered (i.e. Miami Heat). Usually, after 20 years, the sports franchise finds a new and more modern facility, sometimes within our community, sometimes not, then, we are left with a pink elephant to be demolished.

This time around, when we invest we should not be landlords, we should be investors in the corporation, regardless of its geographic location. This will preserve future earnings and a return on our investment as equity partners with the team and allow us to join the NFL/MLB/NBA/FIFA families.

As investors, we are in it for the money, as we all can benefit from having more money to reinvest into our community. The public sector should invest in bricks and mortar. It’s OK to be a landlord in libraries, museums and public parks.

We should demand that our elected officials learn from the past to avoid making the same mistakes. Public policy should ensure that when investing in privately held businesses, we also look at the return on investment and, if feasible, obtain equity in the corporation in exchange for the public’s funds. Or if the public is to act as a lender, let the loan be secured by collateral of equal value to mitigate the risk, just as banks do. An investment should always be made for a profit and not just as a one-sided benefit for the private partner.

We need an independent accounting firm to conduct a valuation of the Dolphins’ enterprise to determine the market value of the franchise. Once established, we can determine if it’s a good deal for the public and how much equity we can buy for our investment.

My advice: If you can’t handle swimming with the sharks, it’s best to stay out of the tank.

Rick Rodriguez Piña is an entrepreneur based in Miami-Dade County and former policy director for the Florida Department of Commerce. He is a member of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

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