This blog post has two purposes. One is to document the continuing attempts — see Jeff Passan’s and Sarah Talalay’s columns — by the Florida Marlins president David Samson to mislead the public about the Florida Marlins profitability and how Jeffrey Loria has benefited from that profitability. The other purpose is to give future auditors a good example of how someone can attempt to mislead by using pretentious language. This latest example came on Samson’s radio show with Dan Le Batard on 9/1/10.
The exchange came with 18 minutes left in the program. My clarifications will be in [brackets] and my comments will be [bolded in brackets]. See the text below:
Le Batard: Given your claim that “not a dollar has gone to Loria,” what’s the explanation for the payments which went to Double Play, a company run by you and Jeffrey Loria?
Samson: Yeah you have to look a little deeper though into the statements and understand they are … Double Play is the Managing General Partner of a partnership [Marlins] and … God we’re getting so technical it’s such bad radio, I’d rather talk about other things [JC: No doubt.] but I will always answer your questions … Daniel.
Samson: Ugh … it is a … it’s [Double Play] the Managing General Partner of a partnership [Marlins]. Any limited partnership [type of partnership the Marlins are] has a [Managing] General Partner … and what Double Play is … in the books … is that Managing General Partner … and the Partnership [Marlins] gives money to the [Managing] General Partner, in the form … we call it a … it’s a management fee, for its expenses in running the Partnership [Marlins].
[JC: Important to note that Samson has said nothing yet to answer the actual question. He merely stated that Double Play is the Managing General Partner of the Florida Marlins, but he did so in a very confusing manner. For example he never mentions the Marlins, always calls them the partnership, and Double Play is alternately referred to as the 'Managing General Partner' and the abbreviated 'General Partner.' They are one and the same in Samson's explanations.
The question was; Why did the Marlins pay Double Play? Double Play's role in relation to the Marlins is clearly spelled out in the released financial statements. So he has merely reiterated facts which were not asked or in dispute, and done so in an attempt to create confusion.]
Le Batard: [clearly baffled] What?
[JC: So it worked, for now. Where's Jo-Ellan Dimitrius when you need her.]
Samson: What you don’t understand or what you want a different answer?
Le Batard: Is that how owners get paid?
Samson: [cough] I, I, … In terms of getting paid, I don’t know what that means.
[JC: He does.]
Samson: In terms of W-2 income … [cough] …
[JC: W-2's reflect salaries paid to employees. There is no reason to refer to a 'W-2' when discussing the fees paid by the Marlins to Double Play. Clearly an attempt to confuse in the hopes non-business people associate getting paid with an employee salary, as opposed to a management fee from one company to another.]
Samson: … it’s [Management Fees] expenses that are paid [to Double Play] in the running of the partnership [Marlins].
[JC: So he raised the issue of W-2's and then just ignored it. The question was not whether the monies paid to Double Play were expenses to the Marlins, the question was whether that is how Loria gets paid. Since it is how Loria gets paid, we get his nonsensical answer.]
Le Batard: Like?
[JC: Remember, Double Play was paid $5.4 million over two years and is scheduled to earn $3.2 million this year. Samson has tried to imply that Loria does not benefit from those monies because the company which he controls, Double Play, had expenses which would have eaten up the $5.4 million received from the Marlins.
Here, he can't even think of anything significant which would be an expense to Double Play, which strongly suggests that the monies paid were exactly what the question implied, fees paid to the owner. Fees which obviously put a lie to the claim that "not a dollar has gone to Loria."]
Le Batard: Like?
Samson: I could go on and on.
[JC: If he could have, he would have.]
Samson: It’s a complicated thing to run a partnership.
[JC: Misleading people about numbers on audited financial statements is even more complicated.]
LeBatard: And it [costs] millions of dollars right?
[JC: Key question. Without putting a dollar amount on Double Play's expenses, Samson could continue to allude to different expense line items -- for example the "travel" he noted earlier in the interview or the "architects and engineers" he had told the Miami Herald last week -- which don't alter the main point here.
Whatever expenses Double Play may have, they would never approach the $5.4 million paid to them by the Marlins. Because the main reason for setting up a [related party] company like Double Play — an arrangement which involves two companies with the same owner — is to pay the owner [Loria] in an indirect manner.]
Samson: Ugh … it is millions …
[JC: Careful David, this lie would be really hard to walk back.]
Samson: … it is millions of dollars [the $5.4 million management fee] that is awarded to the Managing General Partner [Double Play] …
[JC: No David, we know $5.4 million was paid [awarded?] to Double Play. But what were Double Play’s expenses? That’s the question now being asked.]
Samson: … that they [Double Play] then use, it [DP] then uses, it’s not a they [JC: kinda funny that Samson interrupts himself to ensure that Double Play is thought of as an "it" as opposed to a "they" - it's the only thing he is interested in being clear about], which it [DP] then uses to do it’s job.
[JC: But David, the question was how much of the $5.4 million it uses to do that job. Because even if travel amounted to $400,000, that means that Loria personally benefited by $5 million from the team in fees alone over the two exposed years.
To be clear, if Double Play's expenses were millions of dollars, the answer could have been a simple yes. It does not cost millions of dollars to run Double Play. It is how Loria gets his money from the Florida Marlins and simultaneously reduces the Marlins net income. Samson ends the interview how he began it, reiterating facts which were not being asked in such a way as to confuse non-business people.]
LeBatard: We come back with your questions for David Samson….
Some people would argue that this attempt at obfuscation is just part of Samson’s job. I believe that if he can’t be truthful, Samson should just avoid these type of public comments. Far from revealing any type of financial acumen — the things I pointed out could spotted by most 1st year accounting students — they reveal a contempt for the listeners; Marlins fans, people concerned about public monies committed to private projects and the actual hosts of the radio show.
Of the hosts, only Dan Le Batard would claim any type of journalist role, but not necessarily, or perhaps explicitly, not on the radio. But at what point does someone who earns a living at least part of the time as a journalist, have a responsibility not to appear to be complicit in the public dissembling of the Florida Marlins?
To me the complicity comes not in the actual interview, during which it would have been difficult for someone unfamiliar with financial language to spot — I had the luxury of replaying the broadcast — but in the lack of a serious follow up, even if it means bringing up the topic on the next show. The irony is that the Le Batard questions I noted in this interview was one of the few times [I'm a regular listener] that there was a follow up to something Samson had said on a previous show.
But what’s the point if the follow up is met meet with yet more of the same unchallenged nonsense? Samson has been making these type of misleading comments for years on his shows. It’s just too convenient for Le Batard to write that the truth is a matter of perspective when most of Samson’s lies have been spoken on his radio program.
This latest radio interview was just another example of the hubris of Jeffrey Loria and David Samson.