Six lies about the Marlins stadium

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Costales quickly decided they were lying. And for the past three years on his blog, 2thinkgood.com, he has told anyone who would listen that the Fish are much more profitable than they've ever admitted. "Their financials are so shady and they acted with such dishonesty," he says, "I couldn't keep silent."

He's right.

In 2008, Forbes reported the Marlins had made $35.6 million in profit during the prior year, the second-most in the Bigs. Marlins president Samson responded to the Sun-Sentinel: "Every year I continue to be surprised at the absolute inaccuracy that a so-called reputable magazine is willing to print. It's just a shame their readership is forced to read numbers that aren't true. I know the number they have for the Marlins is simply wrong."

Earth to Dave: In a WikiLeaks-like document dump, muckraking sports website Deadspin leaked dozens of pages of secret financial paperwork last August. It confirmed what Costales and Forbes had been saying for years. In 2008 and 2009, even as the team was begging for a public handout at county hall to build the stadium, it turned nearly $49 million in profit.

By Costales's calculation, the Fish have made $300 million in revenue sharing since 2002 and banked at least $154 million in profit.

So why didn't we know all of this before commissioners approved what is one of the worst deals for taxpayers of any baseball stadium in America? For a decade, the Marlins' owners refused to open their books, citing Major League Baseball policy that team finances are a "trade secret."

In 2008, team pain-in-the-ass Braman even asked Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. to force the team to disclose its finances. Echarte declined, calling it irrelevant to a lawsuit Braman had filed.

All the team's cloak-and-dagger tactics went out the window, though, when Deadspin tossed the Marlins' innermost accounting on the web for the world to see. The leak showed not only that the team was turning huge profits — mostly by keeping millions in revenue sharing from better teams without spending much on its own players — but also that Loria and his cronies were personally milking millions from the franchise.

Through a shady bit of accounting, the team paid a "managing general partner" named Double Play Company $8.6 million between 2008 and 2010, the documents showed. Double Play's owner, according to the Florida Division of Corporations, is Loria; its president is Samson.

What's more, Loria pays himself another $10 million a year in costs classified as "administration," Costales says. That is some crazy bank. And the famed art collector is enjoying it in style. In January 2010, he spent $22 million to buy six acres of beachfront land in Southampton, New York, right next door to his gigantic mansion, according to the New York Post.

So don't worry about Jeffy boy. Last month, thanks entirely to their new, free stadium, the value of the Marlins franchise jumped 13 percent to $360 million — a $202 million profit on Loria's initial investment, by Costales's estimate.


Stadium construction will bring good jobs to good local companies.

"The construction of a new $515 million Marlins ballpark will create enormous economic opportunity through the creation of thousands of construction jobs." — Claude DeLorme, Marlins vice president of ballpark construction

The Ugly Truth: Sure, there are jobs, but whether the companies are good or local is questionable. Check out the firms that received multimillion-dollar contracts:

1. Moss & Associates (lead contractor with Hunt Corp.)

In 2003, two years before founding Moss & Associates in Fort Lauderdale, Bob Moss, a North Carolinian with a heavy drawl, left his senior job with national construction giant Centex Rooney.

He was accused of strong-arming employees into violating federal election law. Allegedly at Moss's direction, workers pumped tens of thousands of dollars into local and national campaigns in exchange for end-of-the-year bonuses. Moss also reimbursed himself for $42,000 worth of donations, investigators found.

Moss was never criminally charged, but Centex paid a $212,000 FEC fine. Moss and other execs repaid $56,000 to the company. (In earlier interviews, the North Carolinian denied wrongdoing and chalked up the scandal to "poorly kept" records.)

2. MasTec ($1.1 million contract for electrical ductwork)

MasTec, a Miami firm that was founded by Cuban exile hero Jorge Mas Canosa, was blackballed from county work for almost a decade after its contractors were accused of stealing $17 million. The fraud dates back to 1996, when Church & Tower — the company name at the time — won a $58 million road-paving bid. Subcontractors inflated invoices and charged millions for work they never finished, investigators discovered.

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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

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