US POLITICS

Report: Trump To Tab Jeffrey Loria As French Ambassador

Possibly the worst owner in all of sports as ambassador to France? What could go wrong!

US POLITICS
Getty Images
Feb 16, 2017 at 1:02 PM ET

There are few worse owners in sports than the Marlins’ Jeffrey Loria, who bilked Major League Baseball’s revenue-sharing system and, more egregiously, area taxpayers’ wallets while doing little to earn the trust and loyalty of Miami fans.

Now, the New York Post reports, White House chief of staff Reince Preibus has successfully persuaded President Donald Trump to sign off on Loria as the United States’ next ambassador to France, a move that couldn’t possibly have anything to with improve this country’s international standing.

Muddling matters is that Forbes recently reported that Loria has a “handshake agreement” to sell the franchise for $1.6 billion to a New York real estate developer; it has since emerged that the family of White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner is a part of that deal, although late Wednesday the family released a statement indicating that it would withdraw their bid to buy the team so that the “unrelated transaction” did not “complicate the process” of Loria’s ambassadorship. A reported price tag double Forbes’ valuation of the team, however, has probably already enhanced the franchise value due to the normal human condition of anchoring bias.

For background on Loria’s unpopular ownership of the Marlins, look no further than any one of Yahoo columnist Jeff Passan’s regular screeds. The most recent one celebrated “The glorious exit of Jeffrey Loria, the worst owner in sports,” describing the “stench of his naked greed across baseball like the skunk he is” and the “ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead giddiness expressed by Marlins players and executives past and present.”

What prompted such vitriol across the industry is his work-the-system opportunism. He disassembled his 2003 World Series winner in the name of saving money, had an Opening Day payroll in 2006 of just $15 million and 2009 payroll of only $35 million, prompting warnings from Major League Baseball and its Players Association that led to unprecedented payroll-monitoring for three seasons.

The oversight was necessary given the leak of financial documents to Deadspin that showed how the Marlins—who cried poor and unprofitable every chance they could—had earned roughly $50 million in income over the 2008-09 seasons, including $37.84 million in profit in 2008 when the payroll was only $24.8 million. In those two years, the documents indicated, the organization netted a total of $150 million in revenue sharing.

When he did make pricey additions to the team—Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle in one offseason, for instance—the contracts were considerably backloaded. Reyes, who signed a six-year deal prior to the 2012 season, earned $10 million in his first season with the contract escalating to $22 million for the final three years; Buehrle earned $7 million in 2012 with his deal later reaching $20 million by the end it. After Miami flopped in 2012, Loria dumped the contracts in a trade, thus paying only two years and $17 million of what was signed to be a combined 10 years and $164 million. Similarly, Giancarlo Stanton inked the biggest deal in baseball history at 13 years and $325 million, but if Loria sells now, he’ll have paid only two years and $15.5 million of that. Loria seems to always have an escape option.

More egregious, meanwhile, was the Marlins’ treatment of local residents. While never showing their finances to Miami-Dade County officials, the club said it needed a new ballpark but had little means to pay for it. That led to all kinds of generous public money endowments that are costing taxpayers a fortune. A $91 million note issued by J.P. Morgan will cost—after interest and debt service—a whopping $1.2 billion. In all, some $409 million of loans will be paid back at a total cost of $2.4 billion, yet somehow the Marlins only covered a quarter of construction costs and $2.3 million in annual rent while keeping all stadium-generated revenue.

Given the dramatic changes in Europe—terrorism, refugees, Brexit, populism, et al.—an ambassadorship to France is no longer just a plum assignment one should get for a hefty donation. And Loria, it should be noted, gave $125,000 to the Trump Victory PAC in late September, according to Federal Elections Commission records. But, no, he seems to be in line for the position despite not being capable of even being a goodwill ambassador to his franchise’s fans.