Tim Leiweke, the former AEG president and more recently former Toronto F.C. CEO who is now spearheading David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium campaign, declared yesterday that the owners of private land targeted for a new stadium next to Marlins Park “probably will blow this deal up” with unrealistic demands:
“They know what we’re doing, and unfortunately they’ve let that create an absolutely unrealistic conversation. They can absolutely blow this deal up, and they probably will blow this deal up,” he said. “We’re willing to overpay. We just don’t want to be the stupidest guys on the face of the earth.”
If the negotiations fail, Leiweke said Beckham’s group has a fallback plan at another undisclosed site. He also said Miami Beckham United hasn’t ruled out looking to a different city. “We do have a backup,” Leiweke said. “We will not be held hostage.”
Now, this could be a case of some private landholders looking to cash in since they know they have Beckham’s group over a barrel — one daycare operator said the team negotiators told him his price was “reasonable,” while a Beckham attorney told the Miami Herald he’d asked for 30 times market value, so the he-said-she-said here is pretty extreme. Way more likely, though, given that Leiweke isn’t grumbling in public, but rather to the Herald editorial board, is that this is a way to put pressure on the private landholders: If you don’t agree to our price, we’re going to move to another city and everyone will hate you and throw eggs at the kids going to your daycare.
Leiweke has been known to deliver “we’ll take our ball and go home” threats before during AEG’s L.A. NFL stadium negotiations — he got fired from that job before anything came to fruition, though, so hard to say whether he would have gone through with it. My guess is that a couple of weeks from now we’ll see both sides agreeing to meet in the middle, but if the private landowners do want to blow up the deal and stay put, they’re certainly within their rights to do that. Unless Miami tries to use eminent domain to seize their property, which so far everyone involved has said they want to avoid, but there is a long tradition of doing so.