Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the Marlins haven’t decided the team’s next owner and that all three bidders are essentially offering the same amount of money.
Manfred’s comments, made hours before the All-Star Game at a luncheon at the Intercontinental in downtown Miami, came after a 48-hour period in which Forbes reported that Miami businessman Jorge Mas and the Marlins have struck a deal for Mas to buy the team (which the Marlins and Mas denied), the New York Post reported that Derek Jeter is “closing in” on buying the team and a member of the Wayne Rothbaum/Tagg Romney group privately expressed confidence about their chances of buying the team.
Meanwhile, at least two of the groups are adding celebrity investors.
Former NBA star Michael Jordan, who now owns the Charlotte Hornets, is a member of Jeter’s group to buy the Marlins, according to The New York Post and ESPN. The Post said Jordan has “very little cash” invested in Jeter’s bid.
Meanwhile, Armando Christian Perez, better known as Miami-based rapper Pitbull, announced he is joining the Rothbaum/Romney group, which also includes —among others — former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Shoney’s CEO David Davoudpour and Marcus Lemonis, a Miami native now living in Chicago who is best known as the star of a CNBC business-turn-around show “The Profit.”
Before he became globally famous, Peréz served as an in-house DJ for the Marlins, and now is an owner of a charter school near the Little Havana ballpark that offers a sports-based curriculum.
“As a homegrown 305 Miami-Dade County first-generation Cuban American, it is a true honor to be part of this visionary group,” Pitbull said on Facebook. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity to make the Marlins and their stadium the heart of #Miami, the same way the Orange Bowl was for me when I lived in Little Havana.”
In Pitbull, the Rothbaum group secured backing from the celebrity probably most associated with promoting his Miami connections. He was the star performer at Marlins Park for Monday night’s Home Run Derby, the annual slug fest held the night before the All-Star Game.
He also owns the “Mr. 305” record label, and has used Miami as a launching pad for business ventures that include a stake in the Miami Subs chain, and the Sports Leadership Arts and Management School at 604 NW 12th Ave. He has been a regular speaker at eMerge Americas, the annual technology conference in Miami, and was paid $1 million by Visit Florida to promote tourism to the state.
Among the three ownership groups bidding to buy the Marlins, Mas is the only Miami-based lead investor. He heads his family’s construction and infrastructure company with headquarters in Coral Gables, MasTec.
Asked about Mas at Tuesday’s luncheon, Manfred said: “The Mas family has been a prominent, pre-eminent family in Miami for a long time. One thing we like to see [in an ownership group] is deep roots in the community. They certainly would satisfy that.”
Rothbaum, who has a home in Delray Beach, made a fortune selling a pharmaceutical company with U.S. headquarters in California. The two groups are competing with a bid assembled by Jeter, who has a mansion in the Tampa area.
Explaining MLB’s franchise sales process, Manfred said typically, “the buyer and seller agree on the price. Once there’s an agreement on price, a group is then selected. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of legal work, development of a financial structure that the club is going to move forward with, due diligence. In an ordinary course,... all of that work gets done and then we have a nice little press conference in which we announce who is going to own the club going forward.
“Unfortunately, what’s happened here is the bidders became public before there was an agreement with any individual group. That happens sometimes. You can’t control that. But the fact of the matter is we have three viable bidding groups that are essentially in the same place in terms of price. All three groups are in the process of the financial structuring, the due diligence I referred to earlier. When that process is complete, the Marlins will pick a winning bidder. I’m pretty confident that will happen in a relatively near future,... and the club will be sold.”
Manfred said he’s not impatient with the process but that “my only concern with the timing perspective is that given we’ve had these leaks, the sooner we get to resolution, the sooner the sale of the club is no longer a story and the sooner people can go back to covering baseball, which is what I would prefer.”
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is seeking at least $1.2 billion for the team, according to sources briefed on the discussions.