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Bush-Jeter vs Romney in Miami Marlins Bidding War?

The bidding war for the Miami Marlins baseball team has taken a new turn as a former presidential candidate and a future hall of famer have teamed up to buy the franchise and could face off against an investor group led by the son of another presidential candidate, FOX Business has learned.

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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Yankee great Derek Jeter are now working to make a joint bid for the Marlins, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. The duo decided to join forces over the past week, in order to pool resources for a bid that is likely to top $1 billion, these people add.

And for good reason: The Bush-Jeter team could face a competing bid from an investor group led by Tagg Romney, the son of 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Tagg Romney is the managing partner at Solamere Capital, a Boston-based investment firm. It’s unclear if Mitt Romney will play a direct role in any potential bid from this group; the elder Romney is chairman of Solamere Capital.

At least one other group could bid on the team led by hedge fund investor Wayne Rothbaum, the founder of Quogue Capital. Rothbaum is said to have backing from Goldman Sachs (GS), while the Jeter-Bush team will have backing from Citigroup (C) and will be represented by former Morgan Stanley (MS) brokerage chief Gregg Fleming.

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Morgan Stanley may also directly play a role in the deal, sources tell FOX Business. Jeter will attend a firm event tonight in Las Vegas based on his relationship with former U.S. Congressman, turned banker, Harold Ford Jr.

A spokesman for Jeter and Bush had no immediate comment. A spokesman for Tagg Romney didn’t return a call for comment, nor did a Marlin’s spokesman or a spokesman for Rothbaum, at the time of publication. Morgan Stanley had no immediate comment. 

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Marlins’ current owner Jeffrey Loria has expressed interest in selling the team since late last year, and people involved in the process say while the timetable is fluid, any deal could be completed as soon as May of this year. Loria paid $158 million for the team back in 2002, and even though the Marlins are considered one of the league’s worst teams, he could fetch a significant premium in any sale given the scarcity value of Major League Baseball teams.  

People involved in the bidding process say the price tag could range anywhere from $800 million to $1.6 billion. These people say Loria could walk away from the sale if he doesn’t get the prices he’s looking for.  

The Marlins finished the 2016 season in third place in the National League Eastern Division with a 79-82 record. They lost their first game of this season to the Washington Nationals by a score of 4-2 but have done well since then, moving to second place in their division with a record of 8-6.  

The Marlins do have potential, investment bankers tell FOX Business. They won a World Series in 2003, and the South Florida sports market is considered a healthy one, particularly for a winning franchise. The team also has a relatively new stadium, financed by low cost municipal bonds issued by Dade County.

Still, a sale of a baseball team needs approval from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who is said to be against approving the sale to a bidder who needs to borrow significant sums of money to complete the purchase. The need for a large cash portion for the bid was the motivating factor for Bush and Jeter to join forces; despite their substantial net worth, they would have needed partners to finance the transaction, and financing from outside sources that the league might find problematic.

Jeb Bush would not be the first member of the well-known political family to own a baseball team. Jeb Bush’s older brother and former President George W. Bush, owned the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1998.  

Jeter, meanwhile, has made no secret of his desire to buy an MLB team, as FOX Business was first to report in 2015. During his 20 seasons with the Yankees, he has won the MVP award and numerous World Series, and his considered a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame. More recently, he has launched a series of private businesses including The Players’ Tribune, where athletes provide first-person accounts of their lives and careers.

He has also maintained ties to at least two Wall Street firms, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, where executives have expressed interest in hiring him in some capacity. But over the past year, people who know Jeter say he is most animated with the possibility of being a team owner – a move that has set off a frenzy of investment banking discussions about how to best finance such a deal. 

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