The Miami Herald began a five-part series yesterday about the plans and financial projections new Marlins owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter have for the team. Or, at the very least, had for the team around the time they purchased it.
Reporter Barry Jackson has obtained an early draft of “Project Wolverine,” the payroll-cutting, revenue-raising white paper Jeter and Sherman circulated to potential investors late last summer and into the fall. It’s the plan, you may recall, that Commissioner Rob Manfred claimed he had no idea about until challenged, at which point he backtracked.
Part of it was already known: Jeter was promising to slash Marlins payroll. The team will obviously suffer as a result, but the payoff for owners and investors would be substantial profits projected over the next few years. Particularly in 2018, when the Marlins will get a check cut to them for between $50 and $65 million as a result of BAMTech’s sale to Disney.
But it’s not just payroll savings and one-time windfalls that Jeter says will drive profits. It’s increased ticket and television revenue. Revenue projections that seem . . . markedly optimistic.
For example, Jackson says the document projects a big spike in attendance revenue in 2018, but it strains credulity that the Marlins attendance or ticket revenue will go up after the team has shipped off all of its star players and sets off on a course seemingly assured of 100 or more losses. Likewise, the document Jackson has — the August version of Project Wolverine — contains an internal projection that Fox will give the Marlins nearly $50 million in up-front payment as part of a renegotiated TV deal. As Jackson notes, “[t]here’s no indication if the Marlins at this point believe that will happen.” At present the Marlins have the worst TV deal in baseball. There’s no suggestion I’m aware of that that’s going to change in the near future.
As Jackson says, the documents has been amended since the version he has was written. As such, perhaps these apparently unrealistic expectations have been purged from the documents now being circulated to potential investors. If they have not been radically changed, however, and if Jeter still thinks the course he has set the team on thus far in his reign will be one characterized by a spike in ticket sales and media companies fighting with one another to pour money into the team’s coffers for broadcast rights, he’s a lot more optimistic than anyone has a right to be.