If the latest rumors are true, the Trump family might be flying to Florida to visit more than just the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. According to ESPN, Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law, Charles Kushner, is reportedly on the other end of a “handshake agreement” Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria made with an unnamed New York real estate developer for $1.6 billion.
Forbes reporter Mike Ozanian first broke the news of the alleged agreement Thursday.
The Marlins declined to comment, and Kushner’s representatives declined to comment to ESPN.
According to the network, Kushner, whose son Jared is a senior adviser to President Trump, is part of a group attempting to purchase the franchise, which Forbes estimated is actually valued at just $675 million in its latest MLB franchise rankings. (ESPN suggests the inflated asking price Forbes reported comes in part from the Marlins’ share in MLB Advanced Media, which is owned collectively by all MLB teams.)
Ozanian reported Thursday, however, the unnamed developer or purchasing group did not have the cash on hand to actually purchase the team — it’s all tied up in real-estate investments — and thus would need to take on “more debt than MLB would be comfortable with.”
It is unclear whether the potential purchasing group Kushner is allegedly involved with is the same New York City real estate developer reported in the Forbes story.
Regardless, if the deal does go down — there have been rumors about a possible sale since November — Loria likely will stand as one of the more shameless profiteers in baseball history, and not only because of amount of money he stands to make. During his tenure as the team’s owner, Loria has pretty much never met a fire sale he didn’t like, and has pressed taxpayers on paying for a stadium.
Loria paid $158 million for the Marlins in 2002 and saw the team win the World Series the next year. But the franchise has been one of MLB’s worst since then in terms of both performance and attendance. The World Series victory was the last playoff appearance for the franchise, which has the second-longest postseason drought in the majors behind the Seattle Mariners. Plus, the Marlins have finished no higher than 12th in National League average attendance since that high-water mark.
That 12th-place attendance finish came in 2012, the team’s first year in Marlins Park, a stadium that was 80 percent paid for by funds from Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami and one that will eventually cost the county $2.4 billion to cover the bonds that paid for its construction. Despite the influx of public financing, the Marlins receive nearly all the revenue created by the stadium under the terms of its deal with the city and the county. A number of South Florida politicians lost their jobs because of the local anger created by the agreement.
The Marlins have finished dead last in National League attendance in each of the past four seasons, despite the new stadium’s retractable roof that shields fans from South Florida’s summer sun and humidity. This season, however, the Marlins have pledged around $115 million in player salaries, a franchise record. In 2014, they signed slugger Giancarlo Stanton to the richest contract in sports history: $325 million over 13 years. However, the deal is heavily backloaded and Stanton can opt out after the 2019 season.
But as the Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer notes, the Marlins have built their current high-priced roster at the expense of their farm system, trading off so many prospects that it’s ranked as one of the worst in baseball (27th by one set of rankings). They may win now in what could be the waning years of Loria’s ownership, but whomever buys the team from him could have a good amount of trouble maintaining any success. Even then, however, it seems the team’s fans would certainly appreciate not having Loria around.