Jeb Bush has dropped his pursuit of purchasing the Miami Marlins, according to two sources close to the negotiations, but the Marlins have been informed that former New York Yankees star Derek Jeter plans to continue attempts to buy the team without Bush.
An MLB source briefed on the Marlins’ sales talks said an issue had arisen regarding whether Bush could be the group’s “control person” — in essence, the managing general partner — while having so little of his own money invested in the deal.
Bush was investing less than $20 million of his own money toward the $1.3 billion sales price, according to a source with direct knowledge.
The source would not go as far as to say MLB would not allow Bush to be the control person under those circumstances, but said it had become a problematic issue in recent days. An MLB spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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Jeter now would be the group’s “control” person, putting him in charge of all franchise decisions if he succeeds in buying the team, according to a source with direct knowledge.
An associate of Bush said he knew of no friction between Bush and Jeter but was aware that Jeter had interest in being the “control person,” a title Bush had wanted for himself.
The Bush/Jeter bid is being financed largely through investors whose identities have been disclosed to Major League Baseball but have not been disclosed publicly.
Bush and Jeter have repeatedly assured the Marlins that they have the money needed to buy the team in a deal that would include at least $800 million in equity and the remainder in debt.
The source said the Marlins were led to believe by the Jeter group that they still should have the financial wherewithal to buy the team. But neither the Jeter group nor a competing group led by Tagg Romney has provided definitive evidence that it has the money to complete the deal because partnership agreements have not yet been executed.
And it remains unclear if the Jeter group will lose any of its investors with Bush dropping out.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said in recent weeks two groups have the money to meet Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria’s $1.3 billion asking price.
Loria reached a handshake agreement with Bush last month with an understanding that Bush would buy the team if he met multiple requirements, including having enough money to finance the deal. But Bush couldn’t put the deal together quickly enough, and the Marlins also began considering an offer from Romney, son of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Tagg Romney’s group bid $25 million more than the Bush/Jeter group, according to a source with direct knowledge.
The Marlins had been negotiating purchase agreements with the Bush/Jeter and Romney groups in the past two weeks, with the Bush group further along before the team was informed this week that Bush was stepping aside.
Negotiations will now continue with the Jeter-led group, as well as the Romney group and any other groups that present a serious bid.
Bush did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The news removes the only known local suitor for the Marlins. The team has suffered from weak attendance and political backlash still lingering from the 2009 deal to use local taxes to build the team a new stadium in Little Havana.