Major League Baseball (MLB) and its 30 club owners have unanimously approved the sale of the Miami Marlins franchise to a group led by New York businessman Bruce Sherman.
The owners’ vote, conducted via conference call on Wednesday, gives the green light to a protracted takeover valued at US$1.2 billion - although approval is contingent upon the sale transaction going through, which is expected within the next week.
Wednesday’s approval comes after Sherman, a venture capitalist, and his business partners, including retired New York Yankees star Derek Jeter (pictured), agreed a deal in August to acquire the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria, who bought the team for US$158 million in 2002.
As and when the deal goes through, Sherman will become the control person in the new Marlins ownership group, which is also said to include basketball legend Michael Jordan and as many as 15 other investors.
Sherman, 69, will hold a 46 per cent ownership stake while Jeter will reportedly own around four per cent of the franchise, having invested a reported US$25 million of his own money. The 43-year-old Jeter, whose playing career came to an end in 2014, will also run the team’s business and baseball operations as chief executive.
“I congratulate Mr. Sherman on receiving approval from the Major League clubs as the new control person of the Marlins and look forward to Mr. Jeter's ownership and CEO role following his extraordinary career as a player,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
Wednesday's approval effectively brings to an end a months-long sales process that has been a messy affair clouded by false dawns and misinformation, with other prospective ownership groups having made offers or agreed terms before dropping out of the running.
In April it was reported that Loria had agreed a US$1.3 billion deal to sell the team to a group led by Jeter and his then-investment partner Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. However, that deal failed to materialise and Jeter and Bush parted ways.
Two other groups - one led by New York businessman Wayne Rothbaum and another spearheaded by Cuban-American billionaire Jorge Mas - had also shown strong interest in acquiring the team before the Sherman-Jeter group emerged as the preferred bidder.
Back in February, it was also reported that Loria had settled on a US$1.6 billion “handshake agreement” to sell the Marlins to Joshua Kushner, whose older brother Jared is a White House advisor and the son-in-law of President Trump.
Kushner later dropped his bid due to perceived conflicts of interest, with reports of the deal coming amid rumours that Loria was being considered for the role of US ambassador to France, a coveted envoy position chosen by Trump.
"Owning the Miami Marlins has been one of the singular honours of my life,” said Loria. “I want to thank our players, coaches and employees for the incredible dedication they brought to this pursuit. I also extend my heartfelt thanks to our loyal fans for your passion and commitment to what we built together.”
Though the Marlins won baseball’s World Series in 2003, the team has not made the MLB playoffs since and are expected to lose more than US$60 million this season, in part due to flagging attendances and revenues, a high payroll and a local TV contract that pays the lowest of any in the league.