Jeffrey Loria sold the Miami Marlins for $1.2 billion, and county lawyers are demanding to know just how rich that made him.
Attorneys for Miami-Dade are requesting dozens of documents from Loria and his corporate entities in a lawsuit involving the former owner’s claim that he has no profits to share under a 2009 stadium-financing agreement that entitles the county to a share of certain proceeds from a sale of the franchise.
Among the demanded records: “All income tax returns for Jeffrey Loria for the years 2008 through 2018.”
The request is just that: Miami-Dade lawyers asking Loria’s lawyers to voluntarily turn over the confidential accounting of Loria’s personal finances during most of his term as team owner and the months after he sold for what’s sure to be a significant windfall. Loria’s lawyers have already said Miami-Dade shouldn’t be seeking financial documents in court, saying the appropriate venue for the profit-sharing dispute is through arbitration.
Assuming Loria’s lawyers refuse to turn over the records, the dispute could be resolved by Judge Beatrice Butchko, the Circuit Court judge presiding over Miami-Dade v. Miami Marlins. Last month, Butchko told Miami-Dade to start filing document requests and that she would resolve any protests from the defendants.
A Loria lawyer did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Loria’s tax returns are included in a long wish list from county lawyers as they try to rebut the former owner’s claim of a $140 million paper loss on the October sale of a franchise he bought for $159 million in 2002. The county also wants documents detailing the team’s balance sheet, including payments into the franchise by Loria, all applications for corporate loans, partnership agreements, and even minutes of Marlins board meetings when certain transactions were discussed. That includes a $30 million transaction fee paid to a company owned by Joel Mael, a Marlins vice chairman under Loria.
Miami-Dade also sued the current Marlins. The Jeter front office received its own request for documents from the county this week. That includes a demand for board minutes covering the pending sale when Jeter and partners were maneuvering to acquire the franchise last year and two years worth of correspondence with Loria and executives. Jeter and majority owner Bruce Sherman formed Marlins TeamCo in October to purchase the team, and that company is listed as a defendant in the county suit. The city of Miami last month joined the litigation as a co-plaintiff. A Marlins spokesman declined to comment Friday.
Loria signed agreements with Miami and Miami-Dade in 2009 that provided nearly $500 million in public funds for a stadium complex worth more than $600 million. The agreements for the county-owned stadium and city-owned parking garages included a provision granting the two governments a combined 5 percent share of certain profits if Loria sold the team by the spring of 2018.
The agreement includes a complex set of calculations required to determine the profits under the deal, allowing Loria a string of deductions, including taxes and transaction costs from the sale, the value of the franchise before 2009, certain team debt and other expenses.
Loria certainly made a profit. Melisse Burstein, a forensic accountant and partner at Gerson Preston in Miami, noted that the Loria partnership that owned the Marlins reported nearly $300 million in taxes from the 2017 sale. The $297 million income-tax figure was included on a five-page summary of the transaction that Loria’s lawyers delivered to Miami-Dade earlier this year in announcing taxpayers would not share in any profits.
Since taxes are paid on profitable sales, Burstein said reporting such a significant tax bill suggests a hefty profit from the transaction. “It can’t be a loss because he paid capital-gains tax,” she said.
But Burstein, who is not involved in the suit, also said the five-page summary doesn’t provide the kind of details she or another accountant would need to see if Loria’s tax claims are legitimate. “They’re going to have to provide something to justify that number,” she said.