How Marlins bidder Jorge Mas made his money

Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (center) and his wife July, chat with Miami businessman Jorge Mas, one of the bidders to buy the Miami Marlins during the MLB baseball All-Star game between the National League and the American League on July 11 at Marlins Park in Miami.
Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (center) and his wife July, chat with Miami businessman Jorge Mas, one of the bidders to buy the Miami Marlins during the MLB baseball All-Star game between the National League and the American League on July 11 at Marlins Park in Miami.

To baseball fans, Jorge Mas seemed to emerge out of the mist as a bidder for the Miami Marlins. But to those familiar with MasTec, the family-business-turned-public company he chairs, the die-hard sports fan is a quietly strategic business power whose prowess has helped build a multibillion dollar company with a global reach, and an investor in next-generation companies hoping to make their mark.

In many ways, Jorge Mas embodies the classic Miami business success story — on steroids. The member of one of Miami’s most prominent and wealthy Cuban American families — his late father, Jorge Mas Canosa, was a vocal leader of the exile community — is also the co-founder, chairman of the board and largest shareholder of MasTec. The publicly traded company’s infrastructure construction firm pulled in $5.1 billion in revenue last year and has more than 15,000 employees around North America. His shares are valued at more than a half-billion dollars.

As the leader of one of three teams reportedly bidding for the Marlins, Mas brings more than financial wherewithall. The 54-year-old Jorge Mas would also bring a wealth of business acumen to a sports club that has suffered from falling revenues and attendance.

Mas's wealth comes from MasTec, which got its start digging trenches and laying telecommunications cables under its original name, Church and Tower. After 1992’s Hurricane Andrew brought carnage to so much of South Florida, the company boomed as it rebuilt. Today MasTec builds pipelines, electricity transmission systems and wireless megasystems.

But at its heart, MasTec is also a family business. Mas and his late father joined together Church and Tower, which Mas Canosa owned, and rival Burnup & Sims, creating MasTec in 1994. Mas Canosa, a self-made millionaire, died in 1997 after a battle with cancer. His younger brothers, Jose Ramon and Juan Carlos, also played key roles in the family’s businesses; today Jose is MasTec’s CEO and Juan Carlos is in real estate development and all reside in South Florida.

MasTec and Jorge Mas did not respond to requests for interviews.

From 1994 to 1999, Jorge Mas served as CEO as the company began a national expansion. In 1998, a year after MasTec went public on the New York Stock Exchange, MasTec became the first Latino-owned company to hit $1 billion in revenue.

“He inherited a great company from his father. There were some rough periods there as he transitioned. And then he kept it great, and made it even greater,”' said economist Arthur Laffer, who served on President Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board and is a past MasTec board member, in a recent New York Times interview.

In the years after the dot-com bust of 2000 and the Sept. 11 terror attacks, MasTec went through some of the same rocky financial times that plagued many telecom companies. But in recent years, MasTec has expanded heavily into energy, including solar and wind farms, natural gas and oil pipelines, and cable and telecommunications. Since 2007, Mas’ younger brother, Jose, has served as the company CEO.

Jorge Mas is the largest shareholder and owns about 13.2 percent of MasTec, which are worth about $510 million at today’s prices, according to MasTec’s annual report. Together, Jorge and Jose own a total of about 20 percent of the company’s shares.

Mas is also MasTec’s longest running board member, joining the board in 1994 and becoming chairman in 1998. Today the company has a $3.8 billion market capitalization. Revenue for the quarter was $1.16 billion, an increase of 19 percent over last year's first quarter.

While the oil and gas segment continues to be a strong performer, as speeds increased the telecommunications segment presents opportunity, the company said in its report. “We think we are at the cusp of what will be a significant investment in 5G-related wireless services across all carriers, along with continued strong demand for the expansion of fiber facilities across the country,” said Jose Mas in a statement during the company’s first quarter earnings release.

As to its full-year guidance, “We are currently projecting annual revenue of approximately $5.7 billion with adjusted EBITDA approximating $575 million or 10.1 percent of revenue,” Jose Mas said. EBITDA, which stands for Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization, is a useful metric for understanding and stating a business's ability to generate cash flow for its owners and for judging a company's operating performance. The second quarter results will be released Aug. 3.

Shares of MasTec, now trading at above $46, have nearly doubled in the past year and have been riding up steadily since hitting a five-year low in 2015. Shares have earned a consensus rating of “buy” from the 15 financial analysts that cover the firm. Just this week, Credit Suisse analyst Jamie Cook upgraded MasTec to “outperform,” writing “there is increased evidence that wireless and wireline spending should accelerate in FY18 and beyond and the [oil-and-gas] pipeline business should see better terms and pricing due to easing regulation and lack of increased capacity.”

In the past, Jorge Mas has served on a number of corporate boards, including as chairman of NEFF Rentals, a construction and industrial equipment rental company he co-founded (brother Juan Carlos served as CEO), built and sold in 2005 for $510 million. He is also the managing partner of Mas Equity Partners, a private equity group with investments in aviation, banking, commercial real estate, healthcare and fixed income trading market makers, according to his online bio.

Mas is also a sports fan who has helped at least one Miami technology startup get off the ground. A $1 million seed investment by Mas in 2013 helped to launch SportsManias, a sports media company run by the mother and son team of Aymara Del Aguila and Vicente J. Fernandez. “We invest in good people and Aymara and her son are good people, very motivated and they have the right idea,” Mas said at the time. “They are well set up to grow and I think we can help them.”

Mas has continued to add to that investment. Mas Equity Partners invested the majority of a $3.5 million financing round that followed in 2014 and is an active investor and advisor to SportsMania today. Mas attends board meetings and provides insights and feedback on updates and new developments, according to Fernandez, SportsManias’ CEO.

“Jorge Mas is not only an incredibly successful businessman, but also the ultimate sports fan. As SportsManias' primary investor, he is a mentor, partner, and has led us to rank as a top sports app in the industry,” said Fernandez. “Jorge has provided SportsManias with much more than funds. He brings us his incredible expertise as a successful businessman. As we share our plans and product roadmap, he inquires as to industry competitive practices and connects us with advisors and potential partners within his network.”

Among his charitable and civic activities, Mas is also executive director of the Mas Family Foundation. Mas, a graduate of Christopher Columbus High School, and his family set up Mas Family Scholarships, a private scholarship fund for meritorious Cuban-American students of limited financial resources. He has been honored by Latino Leaders magazine as one of the top 100 most influential Hispanics in 2014 and 2015.

Mas has served on the Board of Overseers of the University of Miami School of Business since the board’s founding in 2009. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from the university.

“Jorge is the kind of guy who won’t speak up just to be talking, but he’s the kind of guy that when he does speak, you want to listen,” said the chairman of the School of Business Board of Overseers, Patrick Barron, who served as first vice president and chief operating officer for Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and retired in 2011.

Through his board work, Mas helps to ensure that the business curriculum is relevant to the world today, Barron said. He has been a guest lecturer for various MBA courses, including giving a 2012 keynote address to alumni relating his life story. More recently, Mas helped in the search for a new dean, offering insight into what he seeks in a leader, Barron said.

“When I think of Jorge Mas, I think of leadership, I think of passion, I think of integrity, and I think of family values.”