Local Cuban-American billionaire has emerged as the favourite to buy the Marlins ahead of Jeb Bush, Derek Jeter, and Tagg Romney

Jorge Mas
President Barack Obama and Jorge Mas. Joe Raedle/Getty

The eyes of the baseball world are upon the Miami Marlins, hosts of MLB’s All-Star Week, and that was before the latest reports regarding the team’s future.

It appears that Jorge Mas, a Miami native, businessman and philanthropist, has emerged as the frontrunner to purchase the team from Jeffrey Loria.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRagSports.com, Mas and Loria recently engaged in high-level talks, leading some close to the team to believe that Mas is the top candidate to strike a deal. All previous negotiations were conducted through David Samson, the Marlins team president.

Other ownership groups linked with the Marlins include the Tagg Romney-Wayne Rothbaum group and the Derek Jeter group.

The negotiation process has been a tumultuous one, with former Florida governor Jeb Bush defecting from Jeter’s and moving over to the Romney-Rothbaum group last month. Jeter, a 14-time All-Star for the New York Yankees, is reportedly willing to contribute just $US20 million to $US25 million to a bid and has struggled to secure financial backing.

Mas, meanwhile, has a net worth of more than $US1 billion, according to an estimate by Forbes. With the team expected to sell for around $US1.2 billion, the purchase would require a big chunk of Mas’ fortune, but he is said to be willing to make major sacrifices, including 14-hour days, to turn the team around.

Mas is the chairman of the board and co-founder of MasTec, a construction company based in the Miami area. He also graduated from the University of Miami’s business school in 1984, giving him the ideal combination of fiscal bona fides and community involvement needed to turn around the Marlins, who rank as one of baseball’s least valuable teams.

Furthermore, Mas chairs the Cuban American National Foundation, an organisation dedicated to “freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights to Cuba.” In a city with a heavy Cuban and Cuban-American population, he could be a perfect fit for the front office.

Loria, meanwhile, consistently ranks as one of the worst owners in baseball. A Manhattan-born art dealer who acquired the team after giving up his share of the then-Montreal Expos back in 2002, Loria developed a reputation for fitful spending sprees during his time in South Beach. He won a World Series in his first year with the Marlins, but the team hasn’t been back to the postseason since.

Nothing has been completed, but a deal could come “soon,” Heyman reports. The Marlins are currently 41-46, good for third in the National League East.