Jeffrey Loria Reportedly Nears $1.6 Billion Marlins Sale to Finish Ripping Off Miami

Update 4:45 pm
:  ESPN reports that Charles Kushner, father-in-law of Ivanka Trump and father of White House adviser Jared Kushner, is involved in bidding for the Marlins. Charles Kushner is a wealthy developer but also a felon who pleaded guilty in 2005 to illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering.

Jeffrey Loria's endgame has always been obvious. Loria has spent two decades constructing an elaborate baseball Ponzi scheme, starting in '99, when he dropped just $12 million for a stake in the Montreal Expos and culminating in 2011 when he wrangled a new Miami Marlins stadium paid for by the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County to the tune of $2.4 billion.

In between, Loria has invested as little as possible in the Marlins. In fact, he's enraged other MLB owners by pocketing up to $50 million a year in revenue-sharing — meant to help smaller-market teams stay competitive — without reinvesting it into players.

Now his final move is reportedly within sight: According to Forbes, Loria has a "handshake deal" in place with a wealthy New York developer to sell the Marlins for a cool $1.6 billion.

Best of all, Loria is now far enough into his deal with Miami-Dade that he won't have to share but a few million of that windfall with the taxpayers who pumped up the value of his franchise by paying for his new ballpark. That is a Moriarty-level villainous plot pulled off to perfection.

Even by Forbes' anonymously sourced account, this is far from a done deal. The investor reportedly has most of his or her wealth wrapped up in real estate and, therefore, is short on cash. (Is it Donald Trump? Loria did give the Don's campaign $250,000.)

But there seems to be some fire behind the smoke. Marlins president David Samson refused to comment on the report to the Miami Herald, and another team exec told the daily that Loria is "going to sell it, no doubt about it."

If the deal happens, Loria will have engineered a truly diabolical scheme to lift billions of dollars from a county that has struggled to keep libraries open and schools funded, and put those dollars directly into his fat, greasy wallet.

That's because a big chunk of a professional sports franchise's value comes from its stadium — and no franchise in America has a sweeter sweetheart deal than the Fish. Though the county technically owns Marlins Park, the Marlins essentially use it rent-free (they technically pay $2.3 million a year, but that just goes to repay a county loan) while keeping almost all revenues. Taxpayers footed virtually the whole bill for the project, which never went to a public vote (and eventually got the mayor recalled from office).

If Loria sells, it's not totally clear how much of his enormous profit he'd have to share with the county — but it's not much. If he had sold in the first two years after the stadium deal, taxpayers would have gotten 7.5 percent of the deal.

But Loria is too canny for that. Under a 2009 deal, he'll still have to share some percent based off a valuation of the team at that time of $250 million. But it will be a pittance of a billion-dollar sales figure.

Literally no one in Miami would be sad to see Loria sell this franchise. The Fish ranked dead last in the National League in attendance last year, and it's a tossup between Loria and Samson for the title of "Most Despised Human Being in Dade County."

But seeing him saunter out of Little Havana with about a billion extra dollars that really should be paying for infrastructure, schools, or police in Miami-Dade would make even that sweet adios taste plenty sour.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink