MIAMI — The Marlins will have a new owner in the “relatively near future,” according to commissioner Rob Manfred, who confirmed Tuesday that three bidding groups are vying for the franchise, with one reportedly headed by the superstar combo of Derek Jeter and potential new teammate Michael Jordan.
Manfred refused to go into detail about the three suitors, other than to say each seemed to be on equal footing financially and it would be up to the Marlins’ current owner, Jeffrey Loria, to choose between them. Earlier in this process, Jeter reportedly had difficulty raising enough cash to meet Loria’s $1.3-billion asking price, and then lost his initial partner when former Florida governor Jeb Bush bowed out.
But Jeter has staged a comeback in recent days, and according to the New York Post, added Jordan to his group of investors, a team backed by Naples, Florida-based money manager Bruce Sherman. Jeter already has reportedly met with Manfred on at least one occasion about purchasing the Marlins, and the fact that he’s stayed alive in the bidding — despite the apparent struggle to come up with the money — suggests the former Yankees captain is likely the preferred choice to gain control of the Miami franchise.
“From our perspective, the normal course of events in a sale is that the buyer and seller agree on a price,” Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “Once there is an agreement on price, and a group has been selected, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of legal work, and developing a financial structure that the club is going to move forward with. In the ordinary course, all that work gets done, then we have a nice little press conference to announce who’s going to own the club going forward.”
Before Tuesday night’s’ All-Star Game, Loria showed up in the National League clubhouse during the media’s access period, but was evasive when asked about the potential sale.
“I don’t even want to think about it or talk about it,” Loria said.
Pressed on when the Marlins would be sold, he replied, “Those are your words, not mine. I don’t have any comment on that. There’s no deal.”
Manfred expressed disappointment that the Marlins’ sale hasn’t followed such a smooth transition. Jeter had been labeled a front-runner as far back as April, then appeared to be on the ropes as other buyers emerged. But as this process enters what Manfred hopes to be the final stretch, Jeter’s group reportedly is competing with Miami billionaire Jorge Mas and another led by Tagg Romney, the son of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“Unfortunately what’s happened here is that the bidder became public before there was any sort of an agreement with any individual group,” Manfred said. “That happens sometimes. You can’t control that. But the fact of the matter is, we have three viable bidding groups that are essentially in the same place in terms of price. When the process is complete, the Marlins will pick a winning bidder and I’m pretty confident that will happen in the relatively near future.”
Manfred also was displeased that new developments about the Marlins’ sale surfaced during this week’s All-Star Game festivities in Miami, taking some attention away from one of the sport’s marquee events.
“I’d prefer that these sales take place in the ordinary course that I described with everything that’s buttoned up,” Manfred said. “From a timing perspective, given that we had these leaks, the sooner we get to the resolution, and the sooner the sale of the club is no longer a story, the sooner people can go back to covering baseball, which is what I would prefer to be doing at this point in the season.”