Barry Jackson

Bush “confident” he will buy Marlins, says Jeter will run baseball side

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) reacts after driving in the game-winning run against the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Thurs., Sept. 25, 2014, in New York.
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) reacts after driving in the game-winning run against the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Thurs., Sept. 25, 2014, in New York. AP

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said Tuesday he’s “confident” he will conclude his sale to buy the Marlins and confirmed my story in Sunday’s print edition of The Miami Herald that Derek Jeter would run the team’s baseball operations department.

Speaking at the annual Milken Convention in Beverly Hills, Bush said that Jeter, who has no front office experience, would head the baseball side, and Bush would lead the business side, according to Fox Business, which covered the Milken event.

Meanwhile, Bush told a New York Post reporter at that event that he is “confident” the sale will get done.

But those expecting an enormous Marlins payroll might be disappointed.

According to Fox Business, Bush said at the conference said he would not authorize a free agent spending spree, but instead would aim to “build the team patiently.”

“Baseball doesn’t have a salary cap, which is what you have to self-impose as an owner,” Bush said. “You have to have the discipline to identify players the right way…There’s no correlation between high salaries and winning.”

He also said his efforts to complete his sale of the team have the support of the city of Miami and a group of investors.

Bush also said he might expand the Marlins’ reach to Latin America, which he described as a potential huge new market for the MLB.

The Miami Herald reported eight days ago that Bush and owner Jeffrey Loria had an agreement in principle for Bush to buy the team for $1.3 billion, provided Bush held up his end of the deal.

That meant Bush needed to raise the funds to meet the asking price, including about $850 million in equity, because MLB generally doesn’t allow more than 40 percent of a sale to be financed by debt.

Since then, three prominent South Florida residents said a Bush associate contacted them asking them either to invest or suggest potential investors.

The Marlins and MLB were aware Bush was making those calls, according to sources, and that left them a bit concerned because Bush had repeatedly assured the Marlins that he had the money to finance the deal.

But as he was seeking investors, Bush has continued to tell friends and associates that he has the money to complete the deal. And on Tuesday, Sports Business Journal reported, quoting a source, that Bush has raised all the money he needs, even though one prominent local businessman described Bush’s search for investors as ongoing.

“They think they have the money,” said one person involved in the Bush group. “There are many people [of likely or potential investors] on the list. Some are verbally committed but not legally committed.”

One person on the list, South Florida real estate developer Armando Codina, has declined to respond to inquiries about whether he will be an investor.

As for Jeter, the former New York Yankees great and future Hall of Famer has never worked in a front office but wants significant say in the Marlins’ baseball operations.

The source who told me last week that Jeter was in line to run baseball operations cautioned that he wasn’t looking to come in as general manager and scout a bunch of games and make a bunch of trades but wanted to be in position of authority to hire people of his choosing to run the baseball side and would take an active role.

Michael Hill currently serves as the Marlins’ head of baseball operations, and the Marlins were under the impression that the Bush group wanted to retain him in some capacity.

But that could depend on how the team fares in the coming months.

The source also said Bush’s son, Jeb Bush Jr., would be involved in the ownership group.

If Bush fails to come up with the money to finance the sale, the Marlins legally have the right to quickly pivot back to the Tagg Romney group, which reportedly has bid $1.1 billion for the team. The Boston Globe reported that the Romney group has the cash raised to complete the purchase if given the opportunity.

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