Miami Marlins mystery bidder may sideline Derek Jeter's dream job

Reuters (USA Today Sports)

The mystery bidder that has emerged in the sale of the Miami Marlins, billionaire Jorge Mas, will likely decide by next week whether he will agree to purchase the struggling baseball franchise.

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The Marlins attracted a slew of potential buyers who have so far failed to raise enough cash to purchase the team, the Fox Business Network has learned.

Mas is a prominent South Florida businessman, whose family has been well connected in the local Cuban American community for decades, has told people he can "write the check himself" and pay close to $1 billion for the Marlins if he decided to make the move, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Mas' massive net worth -- estimated around $2 billion to $2.5 billion -- means he won't need much financial assistance from other potential bidders, such as former New York Yankees short stop Derek Jeter.

Jeter has told people his post-baseball ambition is to own and operate a baseball franchise, and at one point he secured the “preferred bid" of $1.3 billion for the Marlins.

But as Fox Business was first to report, Jeter told Major League Baseball last week he is well short of raising that amount of money; people close to Jorge Mas say, while he is willing to allow Jeter to hold a small stake in the club, the former Yankees’ star will likely not have any major management role if Mas decides to buy the team.

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A spokesman for Mas could not be reached for comment Saturday; spokesmen for Jeter and Major League Baseball have no comment.

People with knowledge of the Marlins sale say baseball commissioner Rob Manfred favors Mas as the future owner because of his deep pockets; he would be able to fulfill the league's requirement that any new owner buy the franchise with cash, and not incur heavy debt that would limit the team's prospect to build a strong organization.

Mas also has strong ties to the community. His construction infrastructure company, MasTec, is located in Coral Cables, Florida, a suburb of Miami. He is the son of refugees from Cuba and his father, Jorge Mas Canosa, was a prominent opponent of the Castro regime for decades. Mas Conosa started the Cuban American National Foundation, a refugee organization that his son now chairs.

Mas Canosa, who came to America penniless, died in 1997 with an estimated net worth of $100 million. However his son, through his interest in MasTec and various private equity outfits, is said to be worth much more.

While he has told people he can handle the purchase of the Marlins with his own money, he may still seek outside investors, and thus limit the amount of money he will contribute to several hundred million dollars, these people add.

One sticking point for Mas is the financial condition of the Marlins, which will hand any new owner significant levels of debt, and big salaries for its players that will be acutely felt in the coming years given the way the contracts were structured, these people add. The team's current owner, Jeffrey Loria, who made his fortune through art dealing, bought the Marlins for a fraction of its current selling price.

But if the Marlins are one of the more mediocre franchises in the past decade, (its record is currently just below .500), the team is even worse off financially; in addition to its debt and poor attendance. The Marlins are said to be losing around $40 million or possibly more each year.

The bidding war for the Marlins has captivated both baseball and finance for months since FOX Business first reported that a number of people — from Jeter to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to Tagg Romney, the son of the 2016 GOP presidential candidate — were interested in buying the money-losing team.

But the bidding process has also been fraught. The publicly announced investing teams are finding it difficult to win over possible investors because of the dire condition of the Marlins’ finances, even as the scarcity value of major league franchises pushed the price tag well above $1 billion.

After joining forces with Jeter, Bush dropped out of the bidding process weeks ago. The team led by Romney, a partner in Solamere Capital, is said to be all but out of the process now unless Loria lowers his price tag.