|Born||Jeffrey Harold Loria
November 20, 1940
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
|Alma mater||Yale University
Columbia University (MBA)
|Occupation||Art Dealer, Professional Sports Franchise Owner|
|Parent(s)||Ruth Ost Loria
Walter J. Loria
Loria was born and raised to a Jewish family in Manhattan, the son of Ruth (Ost) and Walter J. Loria, a lawyer. Loria took an early interest in baseball, attending his first New York Yankees game in the late 1940s. Loria attended New York City's Stuyvesant High School and Yale University, where he initially took pre-med courses. With a requirement to take a history class, Loria chose art history.
After college, he worked in a newly established art-buying program for Sears, launched with the help of actor Vincent Price. In 1965, at the age of 24, he opened his private art dealing business, Jeffrey H. Loria & Co., on Manhattan's Upper East Side and wrote a book, Collecting Original Art. He specializes in 20th century masters. His collection includes works by Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore. Loria graduated from Columbia Business School in 1968 and published his second book, What's It All About Charlie Brown?, a look at life through the Peanuts comic strip (co-written with Pat K. Lynch).
In 1989, Loria purchased the Oklahoma City 89ers, then a Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. The team won the American Association championship in 1992. Loria sold the team in 1993 and began looking to buy a Major League team. Loria lost out to Peter Angelos in his bid to purchase the Baltimore Orioles in 1994. On December 9, 1999, he bought a 24 percent stake in the Montreal Expos for $18 million CAD (approximately $12 million USD) and became the managing general partner. He headed an ownership group that included the city of Montreal, several Montreal businesses, and Stephen Bronfman, son of founding owner Charles Bronfman. When a series of cash calls over the next two years went unanswered, Loria ended up with 94 percent of the team at a valuation of $50M USD.
One of Loria's first acts was to reiterate demands for a new park for the Expos to replace Olympic Stadium, of which he bluntly said, "We cannot stay here." He lost a considerable amount of goodwill with Expos fans when the team was not able to reach an agreement for television and English-speaking radio coverage during the 2000 season, as the Expos tried to increase their revenue from broadcast rights. He also sought more public funding for a planned downtown ballpark, Labatt Park. However, the provincial and municipal governments balked at committing more money to the project. Premier Lucien Bouchard said that he couldn't support using taxpayer dollars to build ballparks when the province was being forced to shut down hospitals. Additionally, Bouchard didn't like that Olympic Stadium still hadn't been paid for 25 years after being built (and wouldn't be paid for, as it turned out, until 2006).
Sale of the Expos
In 2002, as part of an orchestrated move with Bud Selig and then-Marlins owner John W. Henry, Loria sold the Expos to "Expos Baseball, LP," a partnership of the other 29 major league clubs, for $120 million. In effect, the Expos were sold to the commissioner's office. Henry then sold the Marlins to Loria for $158.5 million, including a $38.5 million no-interest loan from MLB. The deal was approved by the other owners before Loria and Henry even signed a contract, and paved the way for Henry to buy the Boston Red Sox. Loria moved the Expos' entire front office staff, on-field staff, office equipment and computer equipment to Florida. MLB's plans to contract the Expos and Minnesota Twins failed, though, as the Twins were compelled through legal action to fulfill the terms of their lease at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
Loria's partners in the Expos ownership consortium filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against Loria and Major League Baseball, but it eventually went to arbitration, with the arbitration panel finding in favor of Loria. The Expos were ultimately transferred to Washington, D.C. as the Nationals. While the move was welcomed by baseball fans in Washington, it has led to many bitter feelings among Montreal – as well as Canadian – baseball fans. Many speculate that Loria's original purpose was never to keep the Expos in Montreal.
The feelings among some Canadian baseball fans are so strong that when Loria chose Remembrance Day to announce his team's new name and stadium, Richard Griffin, a well-known Canadian baseball columnist wrote:
- It’s ironic that Loria and the Marlins held their celebration in Miami on Remembrance Day [the Canadian equivalent of Veterans Day] because there's a generation of fans north of the border that will never forget [about the how Loria's actions led to the Expos leaving town].
Florida / Miami Marlins
In 2013, Forbes evaluated the current value for the Florida Marlins around $520 million. As of May 12, 2009, the Marlins are 569–564 under Loria. On November 11, 2011, the Florida Marlins officially rebranded themselves the Miami Marlins with a new logo, uniform, and color scheme.
The franchise, which previously paid rent at Sun Life Stadium, had been trying for years to finance a new retractable roof ballpark. The City of Miami and Miami-Dade County both voted to approve construction of a new baseball stadium for the Marlins. Marlins Park is located in the area formerly occupied by the Miami Orange Bowl football stadium. Construction was completed by opening day 2012. Before the stadium deal was in place, Loria shed star players to pare down payroll to among baseball's lowest in 2005, and was given permission to explore options for relocating. The team then worked with the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, in a public/private partnership, to build the 37,000 seat ballpark.
A deal with the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County was eventually approved and the Marlins agreed to contribute $155 million toward the construction of a new retractable roof stadium. They were also made responsible for any cost overruns for the stadium, set in the Little Havana section of Miami. Taxpayers from Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami are required to pay at least $2.6 billion to pay off the bonds sold to finance the construction. The Marlins get 100% of all revenues from the stadium. The first Major League Baseball game in the new stadium was against the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals on April 4, 2012.
After a disappointing 2012 season in which the Marlins finished last in their division, Loria made a twelve-player trade with the Toronto Blue Jays as part of an effort to pare down the team's payroll. This led which local and national sportswriters and Marlins fans to question Loria's stated intentions of building a successful franchise, while simultaneously demanding Miami taxpayers' dollars to pay for most of the ballpark's construction and maintenance. Amid threats of boycotting the 2013 season from South Florida residents, politicians, and sportswriters, Loria defended trading away the stars. He claimed that despite the Marlins' hefty payroll in 2012, the organization was not winning and needed "to take a new course" in winning again.
Loria is considered a "meddlesome" owner. In April 2013, Loria reportedly had Ricky Nolasco and José Fernández switch the games of a doubleheader in which they were scheduled to pitch, violating clubhouse protocol. In July 2013, hitting coach Tino Martinez, who had been handpicked by Loria, resigned following allegations that he verbally and physically assaulted players, who included Chris Valaika. When the organization considered promoting Valaika to the majors in August when Plácido Polanco was placed on the disabled list, Loria vetoed the transaction, and the team promoted Gil Velazquez instead.
Loria, who still runs his art dealership, is a member of the board of directors of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University in New York. He formerly served on the board of the Art Dealers Association of America. Loria splits time between homes in New York and South Florida.
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