Marlins president says multiple groups interested in buying team

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Multiple groups are interested in purchasing the Miami Marlins, according to team president David Samson, who confirmed owner Jeffrey Loria is being considered for nomination as U.S. ambassador to France.

“He is in the process right now,” Samson said before the club’s first full-squad workout on Friday. “It’s a long, complicated process. He certainly feels honored to even be in that process, as anyone, I think, would.”

That process, though, apparently has halted talks of a potential sale — at least temporarily.

A group led by Joshua Kushner, whose brother Jared Kushner is married to President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, led a group that had a preliminary agreement to buy the Marlins for about $1.6 billion.

The Kushner family released a statement Thursday that it would not pursue the Marlins if Loria is nominated.

“There was a statement made by the Kushner family that sort of tied (the sale and ambassadorship) together,” Samson said. “I don’t view that. I believe that discussions that we were having with Josh Kushner about buying the team are over now, having nothing to do with the fact that Jeffery is being considered and is in the process of being the ambassador to France.”

Samson, who said Loria is considering other offers, added that there is no MLB rule prohibiting and owner from simultaneously serving as an ambassador.

Loria, the former Montreal Expos owner, bought the Marlins for $158.5 million in 2002 from John Henry, now part of the Boston Red Sox ownership group.

Samson said a “confluence of events” prompted Loria to consider selling the team now, but would not delve deeper into the specifics of Loria’s thinking.

“Sometimes it just hits right and I think that’s the case here,” Samson said.

Any sale must be approved by at least three-quarters of the Major League Baseball owners.

At the time of Loria’s purchase, the Marlins played in the Dolphins’ stadium, which was poorly suited to baseball. Marlins Park opened in 2012.

“Kids can now be Marlins fans and grow into adults and still be Marlins fans,” Samson said.

Still, Miami finished 11 of the past 12 seasons ranked last in NL attendance.

The 76-year-old Loria, a New York art dealer, approved increasing team payroll by one-third this season to about $100 million, which raised speculation he wanted a competitive team to make it more appealing to potential buyers.

That also buoyed on-field expectations within the clubhouse.

“They want to be playing meaningful games for six months and then they want to be there at the end,” Samson said. “They all believe that there is a window of opportunity and that window of opportunity, not just for a career but for a season — but for a team — that window is open right now and they want to climb through it as an organization.”

During manager Don Mattingly’s first speech to the full squad on Friday, he asked the players to focus on what they can control on the field. It might be a positive that a distraction like a team sale hits the news during spring training.

“I guess better now than in the middle of something where we had to start talking about it,” Mattingly said. “But it would still be the same message. It’s stuff we don’t control.”

NOTE: SS Adeiny Hechavarria is expected to arrive at Marlins camp on Saturday after tending to a court matter in Miami that Samson said “has nothing to do with him. He is not personally named or implicated in any way, shape or form.”

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