Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga was serious about wanting to sell his majority share of the team to co-owner Stephen Ross before Barack Obama became president.
Granted the sale didn’t take place during 2008, which means if capital gains taxes do increase this year, Huizenga is likely to be socked with a higher bill. But from what I’m being told, the deal to sell the additional 45 percent of the Dolphins and Dolphin Stadium was signed before Obama took the oath of office this afternoon.
Ross now owns 95 percent of the team and the stadium and 50 percent of the surrounding land. Huizenga, who maintains his attachment to the team calling the sale “bittersweet,” is hanging onto 5 percent of the team and stadium and half the land. Total value of the deal: $1.1 billion.
But with Tuesday’s deal, Huizenga gave up his last majority ownership in a South Florida sports franchise. In the 1990s, Huizenga owned three teams: the Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers. Huizenga brought both baseball and hockey to the region.
Tuesday began a new era. That wasn’t lost in Ross, a New York real estate developer and part-time Palm Beach resident.
“The United States is entering into a new climate, a new opportunity,” Ross said when asked about the sale being completed the same day Obama took office. “And I saw myself, being able to enter into a new opportunity for me that was very exciting, and I’ve always dreamt of.”
Ross wouldn't discuss the financial structure of the deal, but sources say Huizenga is holding a note on the transaction and allowing Ross to owe him a portion of the balance. He says he has been pursuing investors to buy a stake in the team.
"I always wanted to have a few people join me. And in these times, no one has joined me at this point in time," Ross said adding he is still talking with a few potential investors.
Ross didn’t reveal much about how he intends to run the Dolphins, other than he hopes to build on Huizenga’s legacy. He vowed not to increase ticket prices next season, saying now, in a struggling economy, was not the time to raise prices.
He said he plans to alter the game-day experience, but he didn't offer any details. He’ll examine the stadium and business side of the operation and the possibility for additional renovations or development, he said.
“We’re really looking into all of that and seeing the pricing of all of that and how we might put that together, but I’m examining every aspect of the business,” Ross said.
He said he never intended to offer a job to friend and former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson, who Ross invited to join him at the Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens playoff game.
He is still talking about former USTA CEO Arlen Kantarian possibly joining the team as a business side executive, but “there is no deal.”
And he offered some welcome news to those of us still in the newspaper business:
“When you love a sport which I do, I love all sports and am constantly reading the sports pages,” he said. “Even today, when I read the paper and I read a couple of them, the first section I go to is the sports section. You can’t get that out of your system no matter what you’re doing. I was brought up always wanting to be involved with sports, it’s always a dream. Since I wasn’t going to make it as a player, it was a dream to become an owner.”