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Miami Marlins claim British Virgin Islands citizenship to avoid Florida courtrooms

Another stellar development for the Derek Jeter era in South Beach.

MLB: Miami Marlins-Press Conference Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball has two international franchises — the Toronto Blue Jays and ... the Miami Marlins?

That’s what lawyers for the team are arguing, at least from a legal standpoint. A recent filing states the Marlins’ corporate citizenship is actually based in the British Virgin Islands since a member of the franchise’s ownership group is based there. As a result, they argue, a lawsuit between the team and Miami-Dade County doesn’t have jurisdiction in Florida since part of the Marlins’ ownership group is incorporated overseas.

“One of the members of Marlins Teamco is a corporation incorporated in the British Virgin Islands with its principal place of business in the British Virgin Islands,” the Marlins wrote in a court filing in March. “Accordingly, Marlins Teamco is a citizen of the British Virgin Islands” according to federal law.

That would shift the location of the legal battle between the team and the county it calls home from a local setting to a federal court, which would likely be a friendlier environment than in front of a Miami judge who has previously ruled against the team. However, Miami-Dade lawyers are fighting to keep the legal battle close to home.

“This is the most local of disputes, involving a locally-negotiated contract made between local parties under local law and requiring local performance,” Miami-Dade lawyers responded in their own filing.

“If even one of the Jeter Marlins’ members is a United States citizen,” the county continued, “then the Jeter Marlins is a United States citizen.”

The team’s claim of corporate establishment in the BVI is just the latest in a string of misadventures for the Marlins. The county’s lawsuit comes as a response to former owner Jeffrey Loria’s sale of the team — a $1.2 billion transaction from which the embattled executive claimed a loss of $140 million. That allowed him to avoid sharing profit with the local municipality per the 2009 agreement that also helped pave the way for more than $500 million in taxpayer funding for Marlins Park.

The new ownership, led by future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, hasn’t done much to help fans forget about the Loria era. Jeter’s group participated in one of the franchise’s great traditions this offseason, selling off its established talent in a tear-down so severe it makes 1998’s trading frenzy look like a Macy’s markdown event compared to the fire sale that gripped south Florida. Established stars like Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna were all shipped out of town for returns that ranged from middling to baffling.

Now the team has taken an extra step to alienate fans by following a strategy favored by shady corporations and tax-dodging billionaires — the creation of an offshore holding company to skirt local authority. The Jeter Marlins, as Miami-Dade lawyers call them, are attempting to avoid the consequences wrought by previous ownership at the expense of the franchise’s credibility. Given the way the new ownership group has begun its tenure in south Florida, that might not be an awful idea; there isn’t much room for them to fall much farther.