Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade mayor wants a Marlins front office without David Samson in it

Marlins president David Samson discusses the sale of the team

The Marlins have agreed to sell the franchise to Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter
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The Marlins have agreed to sell the franchise to Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter

If Derek Jeter and partners buy the Miami Marlins, Miami-Dade’s mayor has a request: Don’t ask team president David Samson to stick around in the front office.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who has all but boycotted the county-owned stadium since it opened during his first full term in office, said recently he did not want Samson, the Marlins president and owner Jeffrey Loria’s former stepson, to stay on with the new ownership group. That possibility was whispered about during sales talks, which Samson ran, and recently gained steam with word that the Jeter group might retain Samson in some capacity after agreeing to purchase the team for $1.2 billion.

“I think they need a fresh break. I think they need a new start. I think our town deserves it,” Gimenez said on July 11, when he defended his decision not to attend Miami’s first All-Star Game that evening. “I would hope that this ownership group and most of their folks can move on.

“I’m not saying all of their folks — there may be some lower level folks who are pretty good in the organization,” he said. “But the top two people, the owner and Mr. Samson, I wish them God speed. But I don’t see where that would add value to that team.”

I think they need a fresh break. I think they need a new start. I think our town deserves it.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez on the possibility of Marlins President David Samson staying with the franchise after a sale.

Asked about the remarks Monday, a spokesman said: “Mayor Gimenez stands by his statement.” Samson declined to comment.

Samson, whose mother used to be married to Loria, has been a vital deputy to the owner since Loria owned the Montreal Expos in the early 2000s. Samson was the top negotiator of the unpopular 2009 deal with Miami and Miami-Dade that brought the Marlins from a shared stadium with the Miami Dolphins to Little Havana in a ballpark that opened in 2012. Samson also served as a lightning rod for Marlins backlash second only to Loria during the team’s rocky relationship with both fans and politicians.

He seemed to denigrate local elected officials weeks before the stadium opened, and Samson landed a role on “Survivor” in 2014 as the man who “Got local government in Miami to contribute over 350 million dollars to a new baseball park during the recession.” (At the time, Samson said his tag line on the show’s website misstated his pride in the “public-private partnership” the stadium represents.)

gimenez post win
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez addresses reporters on Nov. 8, 2016, after winning reelection to another four-year term. dhanks@MiamiHerald.com DOUGLAS HANKS

Gimenez opposed the ballpark deal as a county commissioner, and is only known to have watched a few innings of the Marlins playing in the ballpark when he attended a 2016 ceremony tied to welcoming the All-Star Game. The embrace didn’t translate to the actual game a year later, which Gimenez skipped after complaining the Marlins hadn’t offered him free tickets. (Samson noted the mayor was given the same invitation to purchase tickets that was offered Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who attended.)

If Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter would like me to serve, it’s something I would certainly talk about.

Marlins President David Samson

The latest mayoral jab at the Marlins arrives as the long-simmering political feud between the Marlins and Miami-Dade may be heading for another flashpoint.

The original 2009 deal that had Miami-Dade and Miami to contribute about $490 million for the $640 million stadium complex requires Loria to pay 5 percent of the proceeds to the governments if he sold the team before 2018. But the agreement also gives Loria significant deductions in calculating profits from a sale, including capital-gains taxes he and partners would pay and debt on the team, which is believed to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Determining the county’s share of the sale proceeds — if any — will require the Marlins to open up the team’s books, and the deal mandates the franchise hire independent accountants to audit the calculations. The team must turn over that report to Miami and Miami-Dade, which is entitled to a larger share of the proceeds because it paid about $365 million and Miami contributed about $120 million, mostly for garages outside the stadium. The Marlins pledged $155 million to build the government-owned stadium, which the team runs under a lease with Miami-Dade.

Gimenez has already said he doubts Miami-Dade will get any money from the Marlins sale, predicting Loria would delay closing until the profit-sharing window closes. But with the sale to majority-owner Bruce Sherman expected to close in October, the potential for a county payout likely lies in the yet-to-be-revealed bookkeeping.

New owners would be in a position to blame Loria for the inevitable round of Marlins bashing that would follow a disappointing profit-sharing announcement for local governments. But retaining Samson could complicate things, given his current role as the center of the franchise’s financial operations.

Samson has another year on his existing contract, and told the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson over the weekend: “I would love to stay here. I serve at the pleasure of the owner. If Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter would like me to serve, it’s something I would certainly talk about. I have remained completely neutral because I was the one running the deal.”

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