Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Weasel of the Week: Jeff Loria

Loria is the owner of the Miami Marlins, who currently sit in 4th place in the National League East, and while they've shown some progress on the field, it's what's going on off it that nets Loria a set of Weasel ears this week.

Let's just say that as an owner, Loria is more thin-skinned than most of his brethren, to the point of insanity. To date, the Marlins are engaged in litigation with a number of season ticket holders and vendors for various, petty issues. Craig Calcaterra of offers some insight.....
Earlier this month we reported that the Miami Marlins had sued a season ticket holder, Mickey Axelband, alleging that he reneged on the second year of a two-year season ticket agreement. Axelband, who had been a season ticket holder with the Marlins since their inaugural season in 1993, claimed that the Marlins reneged first, eliminating amenities which they promised upon the move to Marlins Park and failing to deliver on others.

 In that post we observed that it is uncommon for teams to sue ticket holders. It’s bad form to begin with as season ticket holders are a club’s most valuable and dedicated customers. But it’s also dumb in that there are virtually limitless options available to a club to resolve disputes with ticket holders short of litigation. Why would the Marlins sue in this situation? Maybe there was more to it than we knew? Maybe this was just an extreme outlier of a case?

 Nope. The Miami New Times reports today that this seems to be pretty par for the course for Jeff Loria’s Marlins. The Marlins, in fact, have sued at least nine season ticket holders and luxury suite owners since 2013. They are also locked in litigation with two stadium vendors. The concessionaires claim that the Marlins induced them to pay big rights fees in order to set up business inside Marlins Park by promising big, big crowds, only to fail to deliver on those promises and to see the vendors go out of business or be unable or unwilling to pay what the Marlins demanded.

 The story goes deep on Axelband’s dispute with Miami and that of a pizza vendor. Overall it paints a portrait of a Marlins club which doesn’t seem to give a crap about fans or its business partners, only the bottom line. Unless, of course, it’s trying to pose as a civic institution so it can get tax dollars to pay for its big stadium and rights fees from potential vendors. Now that they have the stadium, however, and now that the ink is dry on those deals, they’re portraying themselves like any other company, entitled to enforce their business deals in any way necessary. And, legally speaking, they are. But they’re certainly approaching things differently than most ball clubs do. And in a way that puts lie to the notion that sports teams should be given any extra leeway when it comes to giving them all of the things they ask for.
What this says is that Loria is the NL's most clueless owner. Not even the Steinbrenner brothers, who run the Yankees, are this crazy. Do yourself a favor, Loria. Lower your ticket prices, and make the game experience a little more worth the fans' while. Otherwise, they'll be screaming for you to sell the team, just like they chased Wayne Huizenga out of town before you. You've been warned.

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