The three groups bidding to buy the Miami Marlins apparently have been either unwilling or unable to meet owner Jeffrey Loria’s asking price for the franchise, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on Thursday called that asking price “unrealistic.”
Loria originally sought $1.3 billion for the team but has since lowered his price to $1.2 billion, according to multiple sources.
“I think he’s holding out for dollars right now that are unrealistic,” Ross said in a meeting with South Florida reporters on the first day of training camp. “That’s what I would guess. They have their issues, certainly. That’s their problem. I have to worry about mine.”
A group led by businessman Wayne Rothbaum is believed to have bid $1.2 billion. From all indications, former New York Yankees star Derek Jeter has struggled to raise enough money to finance a bid in that range. And Miami businessman Jorge Mas also values the team at below $1.2 billion, according to an associate.
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Have any of the current Marlins’ suitors approached him and asked him to invest? “I’ve had phone calls, but I’m not interested,” Ross said.
Marlins president David Samson declined to respond to Ross’ comments.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said all three groups — Jeter, Rothbaum and Mas — remain in contention for the Marlins.
Both Rothbaum (along with Marlins bidding partner Jeb Bush) and Mas met with Manfred separately last week. Jeter previously met with Manfred.
The Rothbaum/Bush group lost at least one prominent member in recent days: Tagg Romney, who was the original point person in that group before Rothbaum joined forces with Romney, with Rothbaum becoming the group’s lead investor.
Though Bush has a limited financial investment in the Rothbaum group, he would stand to potentially be chairman of the board if the Rothbaum group buys the team, according to a source close to the group.
Bush was included in last week’s meeting with Rothbaum and Manfred because, as one source said, “he opens a lot of doors that other people cannot” because of his connections.
The source said Bush, who previously teamed with Jeter on a Marlins bid before the two split up, has brought some of his investors to Rothbaum’s group.
Though Bush would have an active role if Rothbaum buys the team, Rothbaum would be the “control person” — the baseball term for a role akin to managing general partner — because he would have the most money invested.
Mas, who had been studying the Marlins’ financial records, last week briefly re-evaluated whether he wanted to continue pursuing the team partly because he was frustrated that the Marlins would not grant him an exclusive negotiating window.
But Mas, at least for now, is pursuing a purchase. Though he has not made a formal offer, he has been trying to put together a group of investors in recent days. There was never any expectation that Mas would finance his entire bid.
A New York-based source has said the Marlins do not expect Mas to end up with the team, but the Mas camp remains hopeful and believes that Manfred — while not playing favorites — would embrace Mas’ ownership because MLB likes ownership groups with a local presence.
The Rothbaum group privately has expressed confidence to associates that it can close a deal, though a member of the Rothbaum group also said their perception has been that Loria would prefer Jeter if the offers are comparable.