Last week, Mike Ozanian of Forbes reported that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria had a “handshake agreement” in place to sell the team to a New York-based real estate developer, which was later reported (by Steven Wine of the Associated Press) to be Joshua Kushner — the brother of Jared Kushner, who serves as a senior advisor to his father-in-law, president Donald Trump.
In a new and fairly astonishing wrinkle to the story, Daniel Halper of the New York Post reports that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus pushed for and received sign-off to name Loria the United States ambassador to France. The decisions were made without the approval of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, sources tell Halper, despite the fact that Tillerson was promised a say in the appointment of ambassadors.
In response to this story, the the Kushner group issued a statement to the press suggesting that it will not pursue the purchase of the Marlins if Loria is indeed a nominee or appointee to that post. Via Maggie Haberman of the New York Times (on Twitter):
“Our family has been friends with Jeff Loria for over 30 years, been in business together, and even owned an AAA baseball team together. Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest that Mr. Loria will soon be nominated by the President to be Ambassador to France. If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it. The Kushners remain interested in purchasing a team and would love to buy the Marlins at another time.”
The potential appointment of Loria is just the latest complication in the potential sale. The initial report of the agreement noted that the Kushner group does not currently have enough liquid assets to meet the $1.6 billion price point that the two sides have reportedly agreed upon. Beyond that, Charles Kushner — Joshua’s father — served a two-year prison sentence last decade, which could have proved problematic when the Kushner group sought ownership approval from the office of Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. Furthermore, the commissioner’s office released a statement shortly after the initial wave of reports which indicated that it had “not heard directly or indirectly of any conversation involving Charles Kushner.”
Wine’s report indicated that the deal between Loria and Joshua Kushner was made independently of Charles or Jared Kushner, though certainly one would imagine that the Manfred’s approval process would’ve nonetheless been extensive given the circumstances.