Jeffrey Loria sues own fans, because it was only space remaining on his supervillain bingo card

You know, it’s tough to be an internationally known supervillain. Take Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria: He’s already gotten the city of Miami to give him around $800 million because he said he needed it to build a better team and stop holding fire sales of all his best players, immediately thereafter held a fire sale of most of his best players, and let his team’s minuscule number of fans experience the world’s first rain delay at a stadium with a roof. What, oh what can he do for an encore? How about, oh, I don’t know, suing one of your most dedicated fans for declining to renew his season tickets?

During numerous sales pitches, [Mickey] Axelband says, the Marlins promised first-floor parking in the stadium garage and a private entrance. There would also be a lounge with pre- and postgame buffets so season ticket­holders could arrive early or hang out late. Axelband happily paid $24,000 for the two-seat package (that’s $148 per seat for each game) — nearly double the $13,000 he’d ponied up for the final year at Dolphin Stadium. He agreed to a two-year deal. Although only the private lounge was actually written into the contract, Axelband says he had no reason to believe the team wouldn’t follow through.

But Marlins Park wasn’t the success the team had hoped for. By midseason, crowds had dwindled to near Dolphin Stadium levels, and the team began slashing expenses. Those nearby parking spaces? Gone. The private entrance? Closed to save money on the extra usher manning the door. The buffet was stocked with the same bland panini for every game. Soon the team shut it down in the sixth inning.

These all might seem like small details, but “that’s exactly what we paid all the extra money for,” he says. Worst of all, Axelband says when he wrote the team to complain, the Fish weren’t sympathetic. “I didn’t want my money back or anything, but I said, ‘Please give me back the stuff you promised.’ The answer I got back was basically, ‘Yeah, we know we took it all away, but tough shit.’ “

Axelband responded by telling the Marlins he wanted to cancel his season tickets, at which point Loria’s minions responded in the one way guaranteed to maintain their villainous reputation: They sued him, along with eight other season ticket and suite-holders, for breach of contract. The Marlins owners are also suing two concessionaires who bailed out of deals to be vendors at the stadium, one of whom filed for bankruptcy after he says stadium sales were less than half what team representatives had promised.

As Fort Lauderdale sports law attorney Darren Heitner told the Miami New Times, which uncovered the story, “I’m not sure the Marlins thought this through. If you’re contemplating getting season tickets, now you’re worried you won’t get everything you bargained for and you even might end up in litigation.” That might be true in normal logic, but supervillains operate by spreading fear: Jeffrey Loria isn’t about selling tickets by making Marlins fans think they’ll get something for their money. He’s about selling tickets by building a death ray.


21 comments on “Jeffrey Loria sues own fans, because it was only space remaining on his supervillain bingo card

  1. Loria will use the death ray…or go all DR EVIL on the fans…via sharks with freaking laser beams on their heads.

    All kidding aside….the Marlins are a joke, lower than anything that happened with the St. Louis Browns…or BOTH VERSIONS of the Washington Senators. Worse still….the funds Loria extorted from Miami and the state of Florida could have been spent actually improving the region (seeing there has been growth…rapid growth over the years). As opposed to an expensive fish tank for spoiled millionaire jerks, I mean team owners.

  2. Parables of Frogs and Scorpions present.
    There should not be a single person even vaguely familiar with Loria or his ownership of the Expos that did not expect exactly what has happened in his ownership of the Marlins.

    Who does any kind of deal with someone with Loria’s track record?
    Being “Loriad” should never come as a surprise.

    That goes for Mr. Axelband as well as state officials and the (recalled?) former mayor. I’ll save my sympathy for Florida taxpayers – who did not sign an agreement with Mr. Loria or any of his businesses.

  3. Isn’t that sculpture thing in left centerfield evil enough? Maybe they can put a picture of Loria on top of it?

    I suspect that our local Astros ownership is envious of Loria. They don’t seem to understand either that having season ticket holders is a good thing. But, much like the team, their legal folks are underperformers, too.

    Anyway, this simplifies the choices for the 2017 season ticket packet slogans. Choices are: 1) “Buy Marlins season tickets or we’ll sue you” or 2) “Buy Marlins season tickets and we’ll sue you.”

    Andy

  4. I would be interesting to know if the Marlins would be consistently at the bottom of MLB in attendance if Loria wasn’t the owner. I mean they are in a pretty big market and have won two world series in as many decades, which isn’t bad.

    They did modestly well in attendance before he took over but it is hard to separate the end of the post-new team honeymoon from the ownership change.

    • It’s a great question…. probably impossible to answer given the many variables involved. They didn’t draw well for the most part when Huizenga owned them either, but the general feeling was that that was stadium related (and weather related).

      If I remember right the expected “new stadium” curiosity attendance bump lasted less than 2 months before they were back down to 10-12k on avg. No doubt some of that is down to disgraceful ownership behaviour (and performance), but how much?

      Miami is a funny sports market… a bit like Atlanta in that even people who profess to be fans tend not to buy tickets very often. The Dolphins sold out regularly in a pretty appalling facility in a bad part of town. When they moved out to Joe Robbie, suddenly it was a struggle (admittedly with 30% more seats to sell and poorer sightlines…) to do so. Does that mean that people weren’t interested in the new location, or that the price point changed? Or is it just that the Dolphins existing fan base couldn’t or wouldn’t make that journey? I sometimes wonder if the Raiders and Bills are able to finance new facilities that cater to the well heeled fan (unlike their present homes), will they find that their current fanbase is gone or heavily diminished?

      A new stadium doesn’t cure everything, obviously. In the Marlins case the owners are the single biggest stumbling block IMO. If Jeff Loria bought my house and allowed me to live in it rent free forever I would still move out. And I would almost certainly ruin the carpets before I left too.

      • Actually, the Orange Bowl was bigger than what was then Joe Robbie was when it opened (75,550 to 74,993 per Wikipedia).

        • Interesting… assuming Wiki is correct, thank you. I recall many claims of Dolphin orange bowl “sellouts” in the 1970s and early 80s with numbers in the 60k range.

          Would you know if the wikipedia capacity includes standing room attendance as well?

  5. What this horrible excuse for an owner has done to the city of Miami and our fan base is deplorable. Shameful. Scandalous. Dishonorable. I could go on till I’m blue in the face.
    This man has single handily destroyed our fan base and our franchise in general. The league and the sports world for that matter will never take our club seriously as long as this “thing” is running the show along with his puppet- school boy, David Samson. The uninformed will see our embarrassingly empty home games with the upper deck closed off and assume Miami has a miserable fan base which isn’t fair. No where else in sports has an animal like Loria ever existed.
    The question I pose to the uninformed is: WHO THE HELL WOULD WANT TO GO TO A GAME TO SUPPORT THIS LOSER OF AN OWNER? Unfortunately, it goes beyond ignoring management’s schemes and simply just supporting your home team. Can you blame our fan base for not wanting to fill this scumbag’s pockets? Has anyone in the sports world ever heard of a franchise still struggling with attendance even though they just moved in to a brand new stadium? There’s a reason for it and this piece of human flesh is it. No one wants to support this man’s organization. After all that he’s put us through? The fire sale of 03′. The scam for public funding for the new park? The fire sale of 2012. “No thanks” says the majority of the fan base. And this latest story- suing your own fans and concessionaires? Sad. But, I yawn because its just another day the office for this man.
    Some may consider Miami as a fair weather town which realistically speaking might be true, but when we’re treated to a competitive organization that actually cares about its fan base (Mickey Arison and his Miami Heat and to some extent Stephen Ross and his Miami Dolphins) we proudly support our teams. (I can’t forget about what the new ownership of Doug Cifu and Vinnie Viola have done up in Sunrise for the up and coming, bright- futured Florida Panthers. GO CATS!)
    Loria, if by chance you ever come across this post, please, please, please do us all a favor and sell the team. Sell it to someone who actually cares for our franchise. Someone who’ll invest in stability and more importantly, winning.
    Mickey Arison…please save us.

    P.S: Is there something the league can do legally to intervene and rid this man of a franchise?
    At the end of the day, the market is still Miami- a highly sought after international destination. If you think about it, Miami is the only major American city (LA, NY, CHI, BOS, PHI) that doesn’t have a competitive baseball franchise. Sometimes I like to consider us as the Philadelphia 76’ers of the baseball world. Big market with shotty ownership. How sad.

    • “P.S: Is there something the league can do legally to intervene and rid this man of a franchise?”

      Major League Baseball ENABLED him, why in the world would you think that MLB would do anything about him NOW.

      Just look back at Loria’s history with the Expos, and see how MLB tacitly approved his handling of the team by making him ( Loria) whole through buying the Expos from him, for far more than it was worth by the time he was done with it.

      You’re stuck with him, until he either sells the Marlins on his own, or he finally banks enough cash for himself to allow for a little investment in the team.

      Good luck with that.

  6. For all of the discussions about evil Loria and his sidekick Little David suing multiple season ticket holders, the real evil is that, by everything I read, Loria continues to make money year-after-year. He’s been an MLB owner for close-to 20 years and is still in business.

    The real evil is a system that rewards mediocrity over winning. Loria makes money from the other owners and the less his team makes, the more the other owners reward him. Filing a lawsuit against a season ticket holder or two – that fits the business plan and gives other dissatisfied season ticket holders pause (and probably indigestion).

    I sure hope a significant amount of time is spent on Lorea during the current CBA renegotiations. There has to be away to punish owners who pocket money while fielding non-competitve teams. I sure hope so before Crane starts crying that Houston isn’t supporting him and he needs more revenue sharing for this “small market”.

    Really this discussion should center on (IMHO) why the MLB system enables Jeff Loria and Little David.

    Andy

    • To be fair, if Forbes is to be believed, the Marlins are in the bottom 1/3 of MLB teams in terms of profitability despite exclusively owning the 10th largest market in the US.

      Almost all teams make money. It’s not like Loria’s strategy is exactly a stroke of brilliance.

  7. I think from the public point of view, what Loria is like is basically irrelevant. We only know more of what we knew before. He was widely seen as a skinflint and a terrible owner before Miami built him a stadium.

    Again–we have another failure of a stadium to bring about economic development in a particular urban area. This is the case whether the owners are somewhat great (St. Louis) or terrible (Miami).

    The personality of an owner does not appear to be a relevant value, yet civic leaders again and again cite this nearly impossible outcome.

    • I don’t agree that the public image and behaviour of an owner is irrelevant to the operation of the franchise. (See: Chicago Black Hawks, who’s historically strong fan support – absent for more than 20 years – returned immediately after the despised owner expired… Or Frank McCourt, who’s ownership and management of the Dodgers lead to crowds in the 4,000 range with some regularity…)

      It could be that Miami will use/is using Loria’s appalling nature as an excuse for why the “new stadium” did not bring the promised benefits.

      As you suggest, though, does anyone believe the economic projections could have been realized if another owner were in place? I don’t. Attendance might have been better with a different owner, or just if the present owner hadn’t sold off all his decent players to save on payroll spending. This failure is a group effort. The only thing I don’t understand is why anyone involved expected any different?

  8. Since Loria became owner of the Marlins, he has one world series title………..which is more than 21 other teams in that time frame can say.

  9. As a general rule, only ill-advised people people with bad business performance sue their customers. (e.g. the recorded music industry). Part of the problem is the “pump and dump” model that some sports team owners engage in. The Marlins won the World Series, then dismantled the team to cut payroll. The San Francisco 49ers made it to the Superbowl, moved to a shiny new stadium, collected a large chunk of change from the sale of PSLs, then suddenly the coach and a bunch of players left, and now they are mediocre. As somebody observed, the 49ers behavior is exactly what a team advised by MBAs would have done. Cash in on the team’s Superbowl appearance, then cut costs and collect all of the guaranteed income from TV rights and PSLs etc.

    • That works fine for the NFL I suppose but not really in baseball. If you don’t build a long-term fan base when you dump payroll your ticket sales plunge. I suppose if you negotiate a long-term TV deal that could pay off, but in fact the Marlins have the least valuable TV deal in MLB. It’s not really a great strategy for a baseball team.

      …so no, I wouldn’t advise that and yes, I do have an MBA.

  10. Another cartoonish movie character comes to mind for Loria –
    Arthur Jensen the CCA mogul in the film Network and his
    dressing down of Howard Beale “…you have meddled with
    the primal forces of nature ($ucking you dry)…and I won’t
    have it! Is that clear!?!…” The “ebb and flow” only works in
    one direction, using the gravitational pull toward Loria’s
    girth reminiscent of political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s
    depiction of NY political crook Boss Tweed.
    Used to getting his way, Loria uses a different version of a
    loud outburst to belittle the suckers who were customers.
    Learned a lot about those in charge in Marlinville 10 years
    ago when someone I know told me that after one
    year there that there wasn’t any way he would return. He
    mentioned that counting your fingers after shaking hands
    with Samson or Loria.
    Here’s Ned Beatty’s rant…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI5hrcwU7Dk
    Nast on Tweed…
    http://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2009/07/william-boss-tweed-and-bitter-days-of.html

    BTW – It has been accepted practice for franchises to refund
    returned season tix (at least in part). But that was when MLB
    was “just” a business, not an industry reminiscent of the turn-of-
    the-century trusts as it is now. Suckers beware!

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